Friday, 27 December 2013


"On the cusp of 2014 - a new year, the opening of a fresh chapter - I ponder my goals for the year. Why bother? I can hear your resounding scoffs. Lose weight, exercise more, learn something new, help others, blah, blah and more blah. Experts state that thirty-five percent of resolution makers will sadly break their goals before the end of January. Wow!  My thirty-six years of real estate business planning, however, are so intrinsically woven into my psyche that I find myself incapable of facing a new year without putting a goal or plan to paper.

For Christmas, one of my gifts from Matthew and Michelle was a Pandora snowflake. Since childhood, I have loved snowflakes. These winter crystal stars that drift gently from the sky are more than the "hexagonal plates" about which scientists clinically speak or the "accumulation" we all so dread. Take a moment and "smell the roses".  Peer through a magnifying glass and you will discover each magical delicate flake has a unique complex form and pattern. No two snowflakes are the same and therein lies their true beauty.

I was raised in a loving family who celebrated glorious traditions, stressed the importance of education and learning, ingrained in me that I could accomplish anything to which I set my mind, and adhered to a strong moral code. I do admit, though, that as I grew older I sensed in my Mother's behavioural messages a "what will the neighbours think" mentality. Perhaps that is the basis of the trait I like least in myself, my need to explain decisions, my need to make those decisions acceptable to others.  I endlessly explain our decision to move to Uxbridge rather than to remain in Thornhill or to move into downtown Toronto.  I feel the need explain my decision to retire from my real estate career rather than to stay in the profession until I was white-haired and bent over walking with a cane.  I find myself explaining my preference of the pool over the gym, Arizona now over Barbados, individual travel over guided tours or large cruise ships, golf over sailing......... I explain! I explain! I explain!

Enough, I now say. Henceforth, when the urge to explain overtakes me, I have decided to feel my snowflake charm, to use it as a talisman against insidious explanations.  I resolve to be like a snowflake. Unique!  Accept that each of us is different and thus, no explanations are required. I am ME!

Monday, 16 December 2013


........ and the sign goes on to read:

In 1951 our wonderful woodlot was certified by the Canadian and Ontario Forestry Association and became the very first "Tree Farm" in Ontario.  Our founder, Reg Drysdale, was recognized and named to the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1967, as the pioneer of the Ontario Christmas tree industry.  Drysdale's Tree Farms have supplied Christmas trees to Canada's Governor Generals eight times and have twice been honoured by being named Champion Christmas Tree Grower in all Canada by the Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association.
The Drysdale Family is very proud to dedicate this beautiful Ballantrae area tree farm to perpetual public ownership and have it become part of the York Regional Forest through the Environment Canada Eco Gift Program.  This donation will ensure that the thousands of families who have happy memories of coming here to cut their annual Christmas tree will always be able to walk the beautiful trails, observe the abundant wildlife, and enjoy the woodlands that four generations of Drysdale family members have worked hard to establish, nurture and care for. 
The Drysdale Family, December 31, 2013

Cold winds blew snowy whispers, reminders of Saturday's blizzard, as the enchanted view at Drysdale's Tree Farm lay before us. This is quite simply my favourite of Mother Nature's canvasses. Balsam, spruce and scotch pine wore thick gloves of white insulation on their branches. Like the skirts that surround our Christmas trees at home, fluffy white drifts decorated the base of trees. Steam escaped from the Hot Chocolate Hut, hung in the air then lifted and swirled, caught in a gust of icy winds. Bundled up in multiple layers and wearing heavy gloves, warm snow boots, and big scarves as shields against the frgid winter air, we grabbed tree saws heading for the woods.

Four generations.  Forty-five years of annual visits to Drysdale's Ballantrae Tree Farm.  Memories are made of this. Sadly, today was to be our final visit and the last day "our" tree farm would be open for Christmas trees before it would become part of the public domain and the York Regional Forest. When traditions in life change shape, nostalgia, for me, automatically ensues.  This morning was to be a nostalgic last visit. "A chance to savour" as Matthew announced. And Mother Nature could not have gifted us with a more appropriate or beautiful day.  Did she somehow empathize with how we felt? Savour we did. A hike through fluffy knee deep snow drifts, snow angels made, a tractor ride to the far rear fields, trees cut, hot chocolate consumed, and special photos taken. 

Thank you Drysdale family. Thank you for so many treasured Christmas memories. No matter how far in the future, whenever I watch the twinkling lights of our tree illuminate our family room, I will fondly remember our annual Christmas tree hunts in Ballantrae.

Friday, 13 December 2013


In June, 1966, the summer preceding my first year at university, ( My fragile ego begs you not to do the math; it is quite startling. ), I secured a summer job with the then-called Department of Lands and Forests .......Timber Branch, to be exact.  Amusing name, but true! This rewarding job was to thankfully be mine throughout the summers of my university years. My boss, Doug Drysdale, was and still is an extremely intelligent and knowledgeable man, holding a PHD in forestry economics. Doug's family owned then and still owns Drysdale Tree Farms, the massive main operation in Cookstown, with their secondary site in Ballantrae.

My Mother and Father would be first to begin the tradition when in 1966, instead of purchasing from a lot, they journeyed to Drysdale's to cut down our family Christmas tree.  After marrying in 1969, Jim and I adopted the tradition, cutting our annual tree down at the Ballantrae farm,  first as a married couple, then with our children and now with our grandchildren. Forty-four delightful years of breathing in the heady pine fragrance of the farm, slogging through snow drifts singing and joking, shaking snow from trees to evaluate shape and size, laughing with great hilarity as Jim and now also Matt with saws in hand must crawl under the chosen tree, yelling "timber!!!", dragging our treasured prizes back to the baler, savouring hot chocolate around the giant bonfire, and best of all, receiving warm greetings and hugs for all three generations from a now retired, Doug.

Brunch at the Locketts traditionally follows. What began as Jim and I, Chris and Matt with good friends, Richard and Meredith and their boys, has blossomed into a fully fledged extended family day with aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws and dear friends. I freely admit that I enjoy this day with its rosy cheeks, percolating anticipation and relaxed atmosphere as much as I enjoy Christmas.

Sadly, this will be the final winter season for Drysdale's Ballantrae Christmas Tree Farm. Doug and his family have generously donated the 136-acre property to York Region Forest to use for a trail system. They will concentrate efforts on their giant Cookstown operation. Will we continue to cut down a tree? Absolutely! We will find another local Christmas Tree Farm, but no matter how lovely, it won't be Drysdale's Ballantrae with all of the surroundings we have so grown to love. 

And so why do I beseech Mother Nature?  Go figure! She is scheduled to sweep through on Saturday and early Sunday leaving in her wake, our first major snow storm and a massive dump of the white stuff. Dear Mother Nature, please don't get carried away. Please no repeat of what you just did to poor old Calgary. Please just leave us with enough snow that we can still trudge through our tree farm, enough snow that brunch guests can safely make it to our home. Dear Mother Nature, please allow us number forty-five and our final trip to Drysdale's. I beseech you!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Radio blaring with Christmas music accompanied by my squeaky voice singing along at the top of my lungs, this sunny early morning ( December 3 ) found me driving down Brock Road to Highway 407.  Today was my appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon about my troublesome knee.  My destination - just around the corner from Markham Souffville Hospital. Estimated travelling time - thirty minutes. Never one to be late, I gave myself an hour......thankfully!

At the best of times I dislike driving Brock Road with its plethora of gravel trucks travelling at excessive speeds, like menacing giant bullies, tailgating all the way! ( I won't go there now; that's a blog on its own.) I usually head out of Uxbridge along Highway 8 to the Aurora Sideroad. After years in York Region, I know those roads and concessions well; they were my real estate stomping ground. Today, however, that route made no sense.

Within five kilometres of the 407, traffic ground to a dead stop. Red taillights were visible for as far as the eye could see. Damn! A few cars began to turn around and head back north. The construction truck in front of me turned.  As he passed me now moving in the opposite direction, I waved. He stopped. With both of our windows rolled down, I asked, "Accident?" "Big", was his response. 

 I may as well have been on Mars so unfamiliar am I with these roads. If I turned, my ornery GPS would just attempt to redirect me south on Brock again. "Now where?" I thought. Perhaps it was the look on my face, for he asked where I was headed. To keep it simple, I responded with, "Markham Stoufville Hospital." 

"I'm headed in that general direction. I'll get you started. Follow me."

Turning left off Brock Road almost immediately, we headed down an unpaved rural road, deeply rutted with frozen mud mounds. Thank god for a good suspension!  Zigzagging along a myriad of no-name concessions, past old farmhouses, my GPS reproachfully squawked with a series of "recalculating" announcements. It did cross my mind that I was following a total stranger down lonely roads. However, in my rear view mirror, I could see  a virtual conga line of traffic following.  And so, I continued to follow my Pied Piper.

Flashing lights on his truck indicated that I should pull over. Like the good little lost soul I was, I obeyed. As I lowered my window, he indicated, "Turn left up here at the 9th Line. Follow it to the 17th. Take the 17th until you reconnect with the 9th. Then left on the 9th to the Hospital."  Honestly, at the mention of the 9th Line, I smiled.  I was back in known territory. Nolonger lost!

"I cannot thank you enough", I managed to say before he smiled graciously,  waved with his gloved hand, hopped into his truck and drove off. 

"Well, he just made my day," I thought. Not because I would arrive at my appointment on time, but because I had just experienced a genuine act human kindness, a good deed.  Thank you, kind sir. Now, of course, it is my turn to find the opportunity to play it forward.

Thursday, 28 November 2013


For Morgan and Zachary and our annual Christmas Tree hunt:

I can feel the crisp winter breezes, see the softly falling snowflakes, and smell the fresh pine perfume of my home in Drysdale's Tree Farm.  It is that magical time of the year again. I am filled with anticipation and hope.

Oh, hi!  Let me introduce myself. My name is "Sproo" and I am a picea abies. That is just smart alek talk for spruce tree.  My name is not exactly original but it is better than being nicknamed Sprout, which I was for many years as I grew up.

Do you have a wish for Christmastime? I do. I want a family for Christmas. I dream of being a Christmas tree, decked out in brightly coloured decorations, wrapped in twinkling lights, and topped with a sparkling star.  I want to bring love and joy to a family at Christmas, but I am worried.

For years, the trees around me were selected while here I stood, never chosen. I was small, just a sad puny little seedling. "Hey, Sprout, maybe next year," the other trees would joke as they left with happy families.  How I wished to be a grown up tree. This summer when the forester was pruning my branches, I could see the smile on his face.  He was proud of me. High on this hill, I have absorbed the sunshine and nourishing rain. I now tower at a graceful seven feet.  I do not wish to brag but I am a lush green colour and my sturdy branches could easily hold many decorations and lights. 

What am I worried about? Today is already Sunday, December 15. I have still not been chosen by a family. If I do not get picked soon, at the rate I am growing, I will be too tall for a home next year. I could end up as an office building Christmas tree. Yuk!  I do not want that. I want a family. I dream of children, lights and laughter.

Happy tree hunters, bundled up against the cold, Swede saws in hand, pass me by every day.  Why? I wonder  Am I too high up on this hill for most people to climb?  Are my short prickly needles not as nice as those on my Scotch pine and Balsam friends? What is wrong with me? But wait....

Oh my gosh, a young girl is headed my way. Ah! Isn't she pretty with that blonde hair peaking out from below her pink toque and that gentle smile on her cheery face. Now she is staring up at me, smiling. And she is even holding one of my branches.  Is she imaging how to decorate me? I mustn't get too excited, but maybe, just maybe.

Hey, buddy! Come and see this tree.

Now a young rosy-cheeked boy is running up my hill, laughing as he easily makes his way through the deep snow drifts.  I think he must be a skier. 

Zachary! Morgan! Where are you? 

Here Dad, the pretty young girl calls in answer. Come see!

Oh, Sproo, I excitedly say to myself. This is a family.  Please, please choose me. I say a silent prayer.

Mom and Dad, bring the saw, yells young Zachary. 

We found our tree, they gleefully yell in chorus, both grinning from ear to ear.

Now Christmas Eve, I have a home at last.  I love my family. They have watered me, decorated me, and carefully placed gifts at my base.  Morgan cannot pass me without gently touching one of my branches. It is if she is holding my hand.  Zachary sits and dreamily stares up at me. I can see my colourful lights reflected in his young face.  Such happiness! Tonight, while my family sleep, I will guard my Christmas home and eagerly await Santa's arrival. Tomorrow, lights aglow, I will be part of this family brimming with love, joy and laughter.

My dreams and wishes came true.  I am a Christmas tree, a Christmas tree with a family.  I am fulfilled. May all of your wishes and dreams come true during this magical season.  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Before all awake
On Christmas morn,
Mother's company 
In my kitchen.
Red and green lights
The darkness dispel.
Humming carols,
Laughter and talk,
Coffee enjoyed.
Stuffing we made,
Turkey was dressed,
Table to set.
Those are cherished
Those moments gone.
Her spirit remains
My Christmas gift
Before all awake
On Christmas morn.

Monday, 18 November 2013


With no sign of a head or an upper torso, only the protrusion of twitching legs and feet are visible. Is it the Wicked Witch trapped under Dorothy's house, landed in Oz?  A plumber repairing leaky pipes? Jim restoring his Triumph Spitfire? No! Wrong on all counts! It becomes clearer when a string of uncharacteristic expletives escapes out from under the twelve foot long table as Jim tangles with a twisted mass of electrical cords and plugs. Yup!  It's a snowy day and we would be in the midst of erecting our miniature Dickens' Village for another Christmas Season.

In 1994, knowing that Jim's favourite book of all time is Dickens' Christmas Carol, my brother and sister presented Jim and I with our first two lit porcelin houses from Department 56's Dickens' Village collection. Little could they foresee what monster had been unleashed.  Immediately charmed by these quaint miniature houses depicting 19th century London and the time of Charles Dickens, we began to collect the occasional piece lovingly displaying them on our mantel at Christmas. But wait.....

Our son, Matthew, in a past life, was most certainly a crazed developer who could not view vacant land without rubbing his hands in mercenary glee and hysterically giggling, "Expansion!"  Building on Jo-Anne and David's lead, Matthew, and then Matthew and Michelle, have annually gifted us over the past nineteen years with one or two miniature buildings. As it became necessary to move our mantel display to a twelve foot table (yes, I said 'twelve'), Jim and I protested, although frankly not with much resolve. Steadfastly ignoring our half-hearted pleas to curb expansion, Matthew and Michelle delightfully present us each year with an additional structure. Village sprawl knows no bounds and we love it!

Our realistic little diorama is populated with lamp lighters, skaters, street vendors, shoppers, carolers, chimney sweeps, and even snowmen.  I can only wonder when StatsCan will forward their census survey. Bob Crachit and Tiny Tim frolic in the snow. Peak through the window of the Melancholy Tavern and you will spot Ebenezer Scrooge miserably dining alone. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future lurk in the shadows of the church graveyard awaiting their night with Scrooge. Land values must be skyrocketing as available space on the table dwindles and housing becomes stacked.  "With this market, should I come out of retirement?" I muse! The ever increasing population of our little village competes for space with sleighs, hackney cabs, gas lights and God forbid, an increasing array of pubs! Just how great is the urban sprawl? Our elder son, Christopher, laughingly quips that we will soon require our own power grid!  Would that be DVPG, Marion?

And so we begin what will require the better part of a day to complete, our annual rebuild. Jim takes on the electrical challenge; me, the arrangement of buildings, trees, people and vehicles.  My task is tickled by memories of Morgan and Zachary, at each age, studying and commenting on life in our little village. With individual pieces placed, I pause and imagine a story. My writing teacher has been encouraging me; perhaps there are some short children's stories within our miniature Christmas town just waiting to be told. 

A day of rebuild, a day of deconstruction - for such a short time, why bother? One glimpse at the wonderment and joy shining in Morgan and Zachary's faces each year and our construction industry work is more than worth it.  For me, the magic is woven on Christma Eve. Christmas tree lit, carols playing, fireplace aglow, a glass of wine in hand, and the twinkling lights of our Dickens' Village find me transported back to another time and place. A time and place where a mean spirited, miserly old man learns to honour Christmas with all his heart, with kindness, with generosity and with warmth. "Too much wine", you say.  I know it to be the magic of the season.

Notes on photos:
The swearing electrician and his favourite Melancoly Tavern. You can just see Scrooge's shadow through the window.
I would then take you on a tour. Shrink down and here we go! We move though the densely populated city, past finer homes and skating rinks, into the countryside and finally reach the Thames.
The final four photos are my favourites: the skating rink with snowmen and a tree lighting, the skiff rental on the Thames, the graveyard with the gathering of Scrooge's ghosts, and finally the farm with its animals and the roasting of fish over a fire.

Saturday, 16 November 2013


Up early, eyes groggy with sleep, but determined, he peers out his bedroom window, waiting and watching. "Gramma said Papa is the brightest star in the sky. She said he is watching over me, that he will always love me." 

In the pre-dawn morn with nothing breathing, all silent, he whispers, "Papa, are you there?" From the darkness, the first faint glistening of dawn flickers. Overcome with hope, he holds a gasping intake of breath as if in fear of snuffing out the pale glow.

"Papa, are you really there?" Degree by degree, shimmering colours of shell pink and faint gold break on the skyline.  "Oh Papa, I love you." Tears spill down his sleep flushed cheeks as the pale glow heats to reds and golds in response. Papa IS there. And Papa has brought him another day.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Dressed in a thick cuddly sweatshirt, cozy and secure in my living room chair and warmed by our gas fireplace, I stare, deep in thought, out our front window at a chilly November morn.  Today's newspaper, on my lap, glares at me with its heartbreaking photos of the Philippine devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan. "1,774 confirmed dead and 2,487 injured with official death toll expected to reach 10,000," scream the headlines. NASA officials report that the typhoon was the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane. CTV News, in an effort to clarify the immensity of the storm, superimposed a satelite image over a map of Canada. Such was Typhoon Haiyan's size at its worst that it reached into every province. The scope of the human and property toll is beyond comprehension.  And in a third world nation!  As if the situation is not dire enough, another powerful typhoon may be bearing down on the battered islands. "We need help" has been the unanimous cry of the typhoon victims. The need is staggering!

Disasters of such scope throw my emotions into utter turmoil.  We, as Canadians, enjoy such a privileged corner of our planet. It is at times such as these that I feel embarrassment and guilt that I am not doing more. My life is a good one. How can I just sit by? Conversely, I am well aware that an untrained woman in her late sixties would just be a liability to aid workers. So no, I have not booked an airline ticket to Manila.

In 2002, I had the unique privilege of meeting and spending some time with Diane Stuemer. After a cancer scare, Diane, her husband, Herbert, and their three sons rented out their home in Ottawa and set out on a four year circumnavigation of the world. Dispatches describing their journey were published, with ever increasing readership, in the Ottawa Citizen. Diane's subsequent book, The Voyage of The Northern Magic", provided a vivid account of their incredible journey aboard a forty year old sailboat.  So taken was I with this book, its author and her message that I arranged to have her speak to my real estate staff. 

It was in Kenya that Diane and her family learned the true meaning of humanity.  What struck Diane most was the desperate need for basic education. It cost, at that time, $500 to send a student to school for a year. Virtually an impossibility for most Kenyan families. In the Ottawa Citizen she wrote, "...we learned that those of us who have been fortunate enough to make a living and build ourselves a life, have the power - and also the duty - to help build a better world, even if only changing the world of one person at a time."  The monetary response from Ottawa Citizen readers was staggering, enough not only to educate a number of  students for a year, but also to plan a new school building. Leaving Kenya, on their return journey, Diane wrote, "That is why, when we finally made our way back into the ocean, our hearts, once so weighed down by all we had seen in Africa, no longer felt quite so heavy. All we did was plink one stone down a mountain. Maybe it would help start an avalanche."

So what, Daf? Why tell us this? Because when I have my moments of inner turmoil about not doing enough, about not being able, singlehandedly, to relieve the agony of survivors of world disasters, I remind myself of a conversation with Diane in which I likened myself, in the face of such disasters, to a rabbit in headlights. Frozen! Not acting!  Diane, hand on my arm, looking me straight in the eye, said, "Daphne, plink a few pebbles down the mountainside and you may start and avalanche. You only need to DO. Do what you can". 

And so, in Diane's memory, I picked up my computer and donated, from Jim and I, to the Canadian Red Cross Haiyan Relief. And now I challenge you. Choose your charity. Just DO!  Mae mentioned on Facebook that she donated through Plan Canada.  Bravo!  And there are many other charity choices. $5.00, $500.00 or $5000.00. It matters not. Just "plink a few pebbles down a mountainside."

Postscript: On March 15, 2003, Diane Stuemer succumbed to a return of her malignant melanoma.  The day I received Herbert's email, I thought my tears would never dry. We lost a true world citizen, an inspiration and a ray of sunshine.

Friday, 8 November 2013


The clock tower strikes eleven. Straining for more strategic views, the crowd presses forward to the cenotaph. A sea of black centred red poppies, like the blood stains of war, dot jacket-covered hearts. Oblivious to the crush surrounding me, I cannot tear my eyes from him.

Dressed in a beret and blue jacket, wrapped in a warm blanket and hunched over in a wheel chair, he stares forward, his mind elsewhere. Is he standing, nauseated by fear and tossing seas, on a landing craft moving towards Juno Beach? During a tense submarine watch, is he bracing himself against the bone numbing chill of the North Atlantic as his ship guards a convoy crossing between Newfoundland and Great Britain? Is he hearing the screams of an injured comrade in the rear of his flak-damaged Lancaster as he desperately fights the controls, struggling for a life saving landing?

Sparse white hairs escape from under the edges of his beret. Bushy eyebrows frame a forehead creviced with wrinkles. Rosacea mottled cheeks highlight a wizened face hiding what scarring memories, I wonder. Random tremors move through his feeble, gnarled hands. His presence, difficult as it must be in his advancing years, honours a solemn duty to remember the fallen.

Veterans and young service men are piped in. Choking back tears, I join in the highly emotional singing of O Canada. Prayers are intoned and wreaths laid. As the lone bugler begins his haunting lament, the last post, tremor intensity in my hero's body increases. As if a phantom makeup artist has been at work, red circles ring his brimming, roomy eyes. Salty tears spill down his cheeks - each tear a fallen comrade.

In a need to reach out and express my gratitude, I push forward, but lose him in the crowd's surge. Alone, staring up at our glorious flag, its maple leaf bravely and safely fluttering in the November wind, I whisper, "Thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice. I will never forget"

Friday, 1 November 2013


"Three things cannot be long hidden; the sun, the moon and the truth." Buddha

"Own it", were my husband's words to our sons during their formative years. "Accept the responsibility, accept the repercussions, and learn the lesson." A dear friend directed his children with, "No matter how deep the shit you get into, come to me, we will deal with it. But never, never lie to me. If you do, you are on your own." As a real estate brokerage owner and then real estate course teacher, I preached ad nauseum, "Admit your mistake, remediate the consequences of your error, and never lie about it - not to the Real Estate Council of Ontario, not to the Toronto Real Estate Board and never to your clients." 

I now find myself questioning what planet our politicians have been beamed in from. What was their upbringing? What exactly are their values? More importantly, what kind of example are they setting for our youth?

"I have not used crack cocaine nor am I an addict of crack cocaine. I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen and does not exist." Ford's delayed, long overdue statement was made well over a week after the original allegations by Gawker and the Toronto Star, after numerous internal staff resignations, after repeated requests by his executive council desperate to have the situation addressed and after it became obvious that voters demanded it.  "Where there is smoke, there is fire", was the old adage professed by my Father. Now it appears that Mr. Ford has been caught in a damning lie while his "good guy" friend, Lisi, is being charged with extortion used in attempts to attain that non-existent, "I do not do crack" tape. That's some upstanding citizen you have chosen as an associate, sir! If the allegations are true, Mr. Ford, own them. I can only wonder how much simpler it would have been for the mayor and more critically, for his city had he admitted to a substance abuse problem and signed into a rehab clinic. I am betting that sympathy and support would have been the overwhelming response! Taking responsibility for his actions and a frank dose of truth would have won the hearts of many Torontonians. The flip side could ring the death knell on Ford's political ambitions.

And then there is the esteemed leader of our country who denies prior knowledge of payments made to Senator Duffy by the PMO's office so ardently that he has thrown his once valued assistant, Nigel Wright, under the bus. How gallant!  In spite of Mr. Harper's proclivity to micro management, whether or not we believe his protestations of innocence is immaterial. Caring to admit it or not,  Mr. Harper is ultimately responsible for the PMO's actions. As a Broker of Record and owner of a real estate brokerage, under the law, I was responsible for the actions of my sales staff, a burden that led to many a sleepless night. In one dire case, I fired a sales representative on the spot, contacted the harmed party's solicitor for a calculation of damages for which my brokerage paid and then reported both myself and the sales representative to the Real Estate Council of Ontario. It happened on my watch! Funny thing, three years later when the harmed party decided to sell their home, they listed with our brokerage on the advice of their solicitor, so impressed was he that we had accepted responsibility for a serious breach of agent duty. John F. Kennedy wrote, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected." Mr. Harper, you can deny prior knowledge of the payments in question until eternity, but at the very least and as leader of our great country, show some moral fortitude and accept responsibility for the actions of your own office. It occurred during your watch! True leaders, sir, do not make excuses.

Studies by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada indicate the lowest voter turnout at elections is found in the 18 to 24 age group, followed closely by the 25 to 34 age group. A plethora of complicated  factors are at play here. I cannot help but think, though, that one is the "trust factor". Who can you really trust? Whose promises can you believe? If our elected officials appear to bend and deny the truth or dodge responsibility for their actions, why bother to vote? Small wonder that there is a growing cynicism in our voting public.

I dream of a city, a province and a country of elected officials where truth, no matter how difficult, is taken seriously and leadership is about taking responsibility. Not too much to ask, I don't think! It's what we teach our children.

Sunday, 20 October 2013


September 22, 2012
Dear Starbucks,
Uxbridge, Ontario has a population of 19,075, a charming old main street - the perfect coffee shop locale - and one massively successful Tim Hortons. You are most definitely missing the boat here. May I respectfully suggest that consideration be given to a Starbuck's location in our town.
Yours truly,
Daphne Lockett
I am not and never have been a Tim Horton's coffee fan. Okay, you don't have to yell. Acutely aware of the shame of it, I feel positively anti-Canadian with that admission. I hang my head! 
Suffering from severe Starbuck's withdrawal after our move last year, I actually emailed the above to Starbucks Canada. Just call me delusional. Can I blame 'moving fatigue'? No response, by the way, from their corporate headquarters was ever received. Go figure!
In October, 2012, I finally began exploring our new town on foot. Stopping into the small shops along our main street, introducing myself to proprietors, I found some true treasures, the Passionate Chef, Blue Heron Books, to name a few.  More on those later. En route, I was stopped in my tracks by the wafting scent of freshly brewed coffee - 'good' freshly brewed coffee. And there it was, a sign for the Tin Cup Caffe. How had I missed this when driving by? 
My now overly stimulated caffeine addiction prodded me on and I descended a quaint wooden staircase whose creaking announced my arrival. A combination of happy noise and activity greeted me. Hungrily, I inhaled the atmosphere of grinding coffee beans, the hiss of escaping steam as milk was heated, and friendly chatter. The warm, inviting decor offered up old world charm, but most certainly with a funky, modern bent. Local artwork and amusing signs adorned the walls. An eclectic mixture of chairs, comfy sofas and tables invited clientele to linger over a cup, catching up on iPhone messages, answering emails on their laptops or chit chatting with friends. Had I just died and gone to heaven?
A year later and I am a regular. The warm cozy atmosphere is a great place to meet friends. After a few visits, the welcoming, efficient girls behind the counter know what you like. Hungry? Sandwiches, paninis, yummy homemade soups, and freshly baked desserts, provided by the Tin Mill restaurant, are also available. Whether it is for an iced caffe latte in the summer at an outdoor table, a coffee with a friend after swimming or a hot chocolate before the local Santa Claus Parade, I have found my coffee shop!
September, 2013
Dear Starbucks,
Don't bother!
Daphne Lockett

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


Last year's move to Uxbridge complete, I moved forward on two of my retirement goals. Firstly, adopt a desperately needed exercise routine. Ugh! Puff! Puff! Grunt! Secondly, community involvement - with my new free retirement time, to give back to my adopted town. 
An avid swimmer since early childhood, joining sessions at Uxpool was a natural. Goal number '1' -check! What were the chances that during my first swimming session I would, as an obvious newcomer, be greeted by Uxbridge native, the lovely Anna? Casual conversation that morning revealed Anna's volunteer work at the second hand shop run by our Uxbridge Cottage Hospital's Auxiliary. Opportunity knocked and I answered.
One police report approval plus two retail training sessions and I was volunteering my time once a month. Goal number '2' - check! I yearned, however, for a more frequent involvement. What then were chances that the volunteer with whom Anna worked on Thursday afternoons would no longer be available and that Anna should ask if I may be interested in working with her? Are you kidding me? Real estate relegated to my past, a new retail career was launched.
Now don't let those label-driven, new clothing juices flow prematurely. We are not speaking of a Rodeo Drive-style glitzy operation. In truth, we are not even speaking of a cookie cutter Canadian mall-like operation. Tucked away on a side street in old town Uxbridge, the drab, humble exterior of this store could potentially be off-putting to the serious, self-professed discerning buyer. But never, never judge a book by its cover. To do so in this case would be to belie the caring, vibrancy and adventure found behind the rather forlorn exterior.
Staffed completely by local volunteers, this miraculous little shop, selling a plethora of lightly used goods kindly contributed by the general public, has donated over the years, hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Uxbridge Cottage Hospital. Sorters give of their time organizing and displaying donations of gently used clothes, footwear, household goods, toys, knick knacks. Truthfully, the list is endless. A well respected local jeweller volunteers his time, carefully inspecting donated jewellery to ensure that no pieces of genuine value are inadvertently sold away at "steal prices". A jewellery sale of such valuables is held once a year with all proceeds also gifted to the hospital. An accountant, generously giving of her own valuable time, reviews daily cash register receipts and audits the annual books. An avid reader volunteer sorts through boxes of books and refills the rapidly depleted shelves. Highly successful seasonal Hallowe'en and Christmas sales are organized. Make no mistake, this is a slick, well-run operation.
For me, volunteering at this little shop on Bascom is a privilege and affords me a front row seat from which to witness the ingenuity, generosity and kindness that exist within our small, but mighty town. From my cash register viewpoint as I scan the racks of clothes and shelves of goods and books, I realize that as we move along the main street of our lives, intriguing little side streets appear, inviting us to deviate slightly from our pre-planned routes. Take one; just do it. Chances are your life will be enriched immeasurably.
Oh! And should you find a desirable item in our little shop, you would be best to purchase it today; if not, chances are it will be gone tomorrow."  The name of the shop?" you ask.  "Chances Are", of course. 


Striking Balkan features are accentuated by a purple and gold star-printed bandana secured tightly about her forehead and scalp. Grey streaked dark hair frizzes wildly below the scarf framing giant beaded hoops that drag on her aging flaccid ear lobes. Richly detailed ribbons and robes cloak her body in mystery. Creating an eerie atmosphere of other worldly powers, gnarled crone-like, garishly painted talons caress her crystal ball in hypnotic circular motions as she peers intently into her magical orb.
"Why am I here?" I chastise myself. Uncomfortable with fortune tellers, I worry, "How frequently do their words morph into self-fulfilling prophecies? Chances are you will regret this," I warn myself.
"I see retirement. Not in a city. In a small town."
In full drama queen mode with eyes rolling back, I silently scoff at the absurdity of her prophecy. Happily active in my real estate brokerage and firmly entrenched in Thornhill, I smugly write off her initial pronouncement. "Rubbish."
"I see water. Ah, pool water and much swimming. A new friend. E? No, an A. Alexis? Avery? Anne? Anna!"
"Whoa," I uncomfortably chuckle to myself. "Slow down here. I'm just adjusting to the idea of retirement in a small town and now she has me swimming with new friends. At least it is not with sharks! Talk about off base, but how did she know I swim?" My fingers, suddenly restless, begin to fidget.
"I see money being counted."
"Hmmm! I'm liking this part."
"No! It's a cash register I see. There are racks of clothes. Men's? Women's? It is unclear, but chances are you will be working in a store."
"Oh goody," I indignantly mutter. "Just what my parents envisioned for their university-educated daughter." I dismissively stand. "Enough!" I raise my hand in a halting motion. "This session......"
"Ma'am! Ma'am!" Insistent, impatient words sharply wake me from my reverie. "I would like to purchase these items, please." Anna, also on duty this afternoon, glances quizzically sideways at me, concern radiating on her face. But now fully alert, I promptly process the transaction, smile, and from my cash register viewpoint, scan the store I have so grown to love. be continued.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


Rich in its display, a vivid multicoloured blanket spreads out before me. The tapestry, a confused maze of vibrant colours, appears to have been woven into its rough texture by a frenzied, half mad craftsman. A confusion of rich gold and bronze tones is punctuated by vibrant reds and more subtle shades of maize and pumpkin. Obviously created with complete abandon, no discernible pattern is evident.  Revealing its advancing age, the blanket's edges and corners have begun to curl like fingers on an crippled arthritic hand. Tendrils, exert their independence, escape and move independent of any design. An earthy pungent odour of decay assaults my senses. "Too long in one place?", I sadly muse.
Rake in hand, I linger, savouring the cool crisp air, welcome sunshine and colourful work of art. I am reluctant to begin removing Mother Nature's glorious autumn blanket.

Saturday, 5 October 2013


"I'm so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers."  Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
From my first memories as a young child through to my adulthood, October has, hands down, been my favourite month in the year. You can argue all you want for June, July and August, but I won't budge. Nope! October, it is!  October, it remains! Jim and I even chose to be married in October. Imagine!
Mother Nature's magic paintbrush dramatically sweeps a change in her palette from a mixture of sun burned, heat-faded greens to a riotous canopy of oranges, reds and vibrant yellows. Albert Camus wrote of October as "the second spring when every leaf is a flower". Leaves drift like feathers on the crisp autumn breezes as they journey to the ground where they form autumn's crunchy sidewalk and street blankets. How I love that sensation and sound beneath my shoes. I wonder how neighbours would view a woman in her sixties jumping into a their freshly raked piles of leaves. Mental case, probably!  Ah! the fun-filled memories of childhood.
The musky scent of burning wood invites images of curling up, great book in hand, before a roaring fireplace. For Jim, it is football season at long last! 
Heady aromas of cinnamon, baking apples, pumpkin and mulled cider commingle to create the perfume of our kitchen. Comfort foods- stews, soups and pastas - make their welcome return to our table. And my favourite colourful harvest root vegetables abound. Not to be forgotten is the bounty of Thanksgiving's turkey or, even better, it's scrumptious leftovers.
Gone is summer's often stifling humidity, replaced by cool, fresh, breathable breezes. Sleep at night descends easily, window open, snuggled under a downy comforter. Cooler daytime temperatures allow me to don once again my favoured jeans and sweaters. How I treasure this timeframe, albeit short- lived,  between sandals and boots.
As the month draws to a close and Jack Frost threatens with his first tendrils of chilly, frosty northern air, all manner of pumpkin faces are carved and ghostly, ghoulish apparitions, treat bags in hand, haunt our streets cheerily demanding "trick or treat" from 'spooked' householders.
October is "the time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature has been saving up all year for the grand finale" . (Lauren DeStephano). Yup! October is upon us. And I, for one, intend to savour it!

Saturday, 28 September 2013


Pet peeves? I am generally a happy, positive person, but I fully admit to having pet peeves. Do you have any? Irksome occurrences that raise the level of your blood pressure? Sadly I admit that I do. The lady in the grocery store express check out line with thirty items in her cart. "Ah, come on! Can't you read the sign?", I mutter under my breath.  The gentleman in the car in front of me who misses the advance green because he is deeply engaged in a conversation on his cell phone. "Hey fella, have you been living in a bunker?" I yell in the confines of my car. "That's illegal." The group of teens sauntering en masse across the width of the sidewalk, preventing any possible passage. As my frustration increases, I envision myself in a football uniform ploughing through the inconsiderate oblivious group. Insane? Probably! What can send my ire right off the Richter scale is spotting a car, without proper designation, parked in disabled parking. "Why haven't they been ticketed?", I fume. "Where are the police when you need them?" Such is my frustration, I find it necessary to then relate the incident to whomever will listen to me blather on. Let's just spread the negativity, Daf!
This week has proven to be a difficult one. Saying goodbye to our beloved, Tony, who fought so hard for every minute of his life and watching Sue, his wife, and Michelle, his daughter, begin to cope with their loss has proven heartbreaking. I feel helpless. Yesterday, we received news that literally brought me to my knees. A dear, life-long, much loved friend, part of our lives since our teen years and a favourite of my parents, is in a battle for his life, fighting stage 4 cancer. The flood gates opened. Pent up emotion from this past week and the news from our friend totally overtook me and I sobbed.
A gut wrenching cry for Tony and John and fury with myself for negative moments of frustration in meaningless situations. So precious is our life, it should not be wasted. In my self indulgent moment of anguish, I promised to spend each day in laughter and positive thought, to get over myself in those my moments of frustration. To savour each precious moment of my journey. To not take for granted or waste this precious gift of life.

Monday, 23 September 2013


Our full trip aborted, we are home. Although saddened to have cancelled the final two weeks of our journey, given the circumstances, I would chose to be nowhere else.
Switzerland did not disappoint. The rugged stunning beauty of the Alps, dramatic raging rivers and waterfalls, gentle verdant valleys, charming towns and cities, quintessential Tyrollean architecture festooned with flowers, and spotless cleanliness make Switzerland a European gem worthy of a visit on its own. Vienna, the city of classical music and Hapsburg's glamour, is nothing short of glorious and can easily hold her own amongst the great cities of the world such as London and Rome. This tantalizing taste of Austria is now beckoning Jim and I to return. Ideas for a return trip are already churning away.
4:00 am this morning and our wake up call rang. Why does a wakeup call so jangle one's nerves? Thus began our journey home from Vienna.  Fog had socked in Zurich Airport. Flights were being spaced out and so our Air Austria flight understandably but frustratingly sat on the tarmac in Vienna awaiting clearance from Zurich and Vienna to take off. "Let's just get this show in the air", I impatiently thought. Once over Zurich, we then circled for over a half an hour awaiting clearance to land. It was amusing and dizzying to watch the tight red circles form on the little GPS display above our seat and to enjoy the sun rise five times in one morning.  Not a big deal, except Jim and I originally had 75 minutes between flights and a terminal change. How nerve wracking it was to watch that time frame rapidly diminish. Once disembarked, we ran, catching the train from Terminal A to Terminal E, and arriving at our gate just as Air Canada was boarding. Phew!
Both Matt and Michelle discouraged us from coming home. In fact, we were ordered to stay put!  Michelle wrote, "My Dad would never have wanted you to cut your trip short". I believe that. If there was anyone who understood the full meaning of "carpe diem", that would be Tony. What he might have underestimated, though, is how much Jim and I loved him. How important it would be to honour his life.
Once our return travel arrangements were finalized, Michelle wrote, "I have to be honest in saying that I am glad you both will be here for Mom and Matt, and especially the kids. I think that they need to see you and know that you are both still okay". Copious tears flowed upon reading that note.
In my final Italian blog, I wrote, "That glorious red maple leaf on the tail wing of our Air Canada flight. No matter where we travel when I see that symbol, my heart sings. For me, that symbols says, 'Home has come to get you' and I love it". Walking down the Zurich Airport passenger tube to the plane, I glanced up and there was my maple leaf. Now it seemed to be saying, "You are needed at home and home has come to get you". My heart felt great relief.
We had discouraged all offers to pick us up at the airport. Jet lagged and exhausted, it would simply be easier to grab a limo for the final drive to Uxbridge. Upon exiting the customs/ baggage area into the main concourse, we heard music to our ears. "Grammie! Grampa!" yelled our little blonde bombshell, Morgan, as she threw herself into Jim's arms. Then came Matt's beaming smile and warm welcoming embraces. I would cancel a hundred trips for that moment in time.
Really, in the final analysis, that's what is most important in life - family and home!

Friday, 20 September 2013


Jim and I have many blessings to count, one most definitely being our daughter-in-law, Michelle. Matt and Michelle's marriage brought a budding friendship with her parents, Sue and Tony. That friendship has evolved over the years to the point where holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, to name a few, are spent together as family. To Jim and I, Sue and Tony are quite simply adopted family. It is a deepening relationship we have treasured.
Should you view Tony on the street you would see a greying, gaunt man older than his true age, very slow and tentative on his feet. That vision outside, however, belies the strong, fiercely determined inner hero of a man.
Over five years ago, after undergoing hip surgery, Tony's body was invaded by a massive, life-threatening infection. That he survived amazed both his medical team and family who had prepared for the worst. The infection sadly robbed Tony of all kidney function forcing him into a five year routine of exhausting kidney dialysis. As if this were not enough for one man, during this timeframe Tony successfully battled cancer, a plethora of additional infections and most recently, a highly virulent case of pneumonia. Loss of core balance has led to numerous bruising falls and severe osteoarthritis has wracked his body with ongoing pain.
Many would have said, "Enough!", but not our hero. Why? One need only catch a glimpse of Tony in the presence of his grandchildren. This I have personally witnessed. An inner light and love burns so strongly it is palpable throughout the room. In my heart I believe that Tony has struggled and never given up so that he may watch his beloved grandchildren grow and thrive.
After another tragic fall that ultimately led to bleeding in his brain, Tony today fought and lost his battle and war, taking his final journey to a more peaceful place.
To Morgan and Zachary, our mutual grandchildren, I would say that such enduring love can never die. Morgan, when you jump into the lake and swim like the little fish that you are, know that although you cannot see him, your Papa is happily watching you from the cottage window. Zachary, when you reel in that big fish, the dock chair beside you may be empty, but your Papa is there helping you grasp your bending straining rod. Morgan, when you are whizzing around a winter rink, know that Papa is skating beside you and Zachary, when you ski that first black diamond run, Papa will be cheering you on. At school ceremonies and graduations, at weddings, and at holiday times, know that your Papa is present in spirit joining you in the joy of the moment. And when you sleep at night, he will be watching over you. Your Papa loved you and will continue to do so. Think of him as your guardian angel.
"I pray you'll be our eyes,
"And watch us where we go
"And help us to be wise
"In times when we don't know". The Prayer (Andrea Boccelli)
And so Jim and I will cut our vacation short. Europe is still in full tourist season and a change in air travel almost impossible but thanks to our amazing travel agent, Connie, and her compassionate contact at Air Canada, we will fly home Sunday. Home to now support Sue who has so long been Tony's rock. Home to love and support Michelle, Matt, Morgan and Zachary whenever and wherever they need us. Home to pay our respects to Tony Slot. Home to say goodby to our quiet hero.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

IN WIEN (Tuesday, September 17)

Cold, dark and rain were our welcome to Vienna last night as we disembarked our eight hour train ride from Zurich. Exhausted, we signed in at our hotel, immediately crawled under eiderdowns and fell blissfully asleep. What a wonderful discovery it was, upon opening our drapes this morning, to find massive gothic St. Stephen's immediately across the platz from our hotel. This cathedral is considered by many to be the heart of Vienna, although some would argue for the Opera House or Hofburg Palace.
Skies were dull and temperatures distinctly chilly, but the torrential downpour of last night had dissipated. Thank heavens for the heavier coat I packed for our mountain top adventures. Wishing to walk for a day and stretch our train-strained legs, we followed good old Rick Steve's "Vienna City Walk", taking in the primary sites, absorbing the atmosphere and pace of this vibrant classic city, peaking in chandeliered cafes offering scrumptious delicacies, and deciding which sites we will concentrate on for the next three days. Traffic free cobblestoned streets make it clear - this is a city for the people.
Fountains and sculptures are in themselves storytellers and Vienna has no shortage. I was reminded that as beautiful as Vienna is, her past has been a difficult and scarred one. One monument in particular -The Monument Against War and Fascism - moved me to tears. The monument consists of four thought provoking and heart breaking statues meant to remind Austrians of the consequences of not keeping their government on track. The first section with two white slabs of granite is cut from the infamous quarry at Mauthausen. Moving towards these slabs symbolizes standing at the gates of a concentration camp. Carved into the granite monoliths are chilling wartime images such as chained labourers and gas masks. At the base of the monument is a low sculpture of a hunched over Jew forced to wash anti-Nazi graffiti off the street with a toothbrush. Citizens would stand over these workers jeering and spitting on them. So starkly moving is this piece that it reduced me to tears. Behind is the 1945 declaration of Austria's second republic, the first having been annexed by the Nazis, with the human rights built into it actually carved in stone. The experience gains emotional impact when you realize that this monument stands in the spot where several hundred people were buried alive when the cellar they were hiding in was demolished in a World War II bombing.
This evening we ate at a local wine cellar, Gigerl Stadtheuriger. Music, good Austrian wine, and an assortment of inviting local foods, the names of which I had no comprehension, made for a great end to our first day in Vienna (Wien).
I am going to list what these photos contain as I have not described most of them in the written part of my blog:
1. The view of St. Stephen's from our hotel room.
2. Cafe Sacher. One of the delightful chandeliered cafes.
3. Cafe Sacher is famous for their Sacher Torte. Two forks please!
4. Concentration camp gates - Monument .against War and Fascism.
5. Carvings on the granite monoliths.
6. Hunched over figure of Jewish street cleaner.
7. Austrian Human Rights Code carved in granite.
8. Opera House, considered one of the world's premier opera houses. Note giant outdoor screen on which some performances are projected for the public.
9. Vienna's walk of famous opera stars, conductors and composers.
10. J.& L. Lobmeyr Crystal in business since 1823. Gorgeous crystal museum on the third floor.
11. Interior of Lobmeyr's. Chrystal chandelier in centre of store reminds me of a trilobite!
12. Holy TrinitynPlague Column erected by Leopold I to thenm god for sparing his city in the 1679 plague.
13. Lady Faith and Cupid toss an old naked lady, representing the plague, into the abyss thus aging the city. Mesh covering on statues is to keep the pigeons off!
14. St. Peter's Church - ornate organ
15. St. Peter's Church - cupola
16. Celebration at Hofburg Palace - a new ambassador's presentation of credentials to the Austrian President. Problem? We don't speak German so we don't know which country he represented.
17. Can you identify this new ambassador to Austria?
18. Hofburg Palace
19. Roman ruins outside the palace.
20. Jim and I - dinner at Gigerl Stadtheuriger
21. Interior of the charming little restaurant.