Saturday, 29 November 2014


Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, "You owe me!"  Look what happens with a love like that, it lights up the whole sky.  Hafez

I hate to admit it, but we are almost a month from Christmas and I, a certified, self-proclaimed Christmas fanatic, am battling the dreaded Scrooge/Grinch syndrome.

On November 3rd., I visited one of my favourite little Aurora shops, Not Just Cards, in search of some autumn-themed h'or d'oeuvres serviettes. What was I thinking?  Of course, with Christmas 'only' (?) two months away, not an "autumn anything" was to be found; the store had been transformed into a Christmas fantasy with piped in Christmas music.  November 3rd.?  Heck, I was barely over Hallowe'en!

Speaking of Christmas music, effective November 15th. my chosen radio station, CHFI, moved to an "all Christmas Music" format. Please don't get me wrong. I absolutely love Christmas music as is evidenced by our huge library of Christmas CD's.  My fondest memories of Christmas as a child include the magical Candlelight Christmas Carol service at our family church.  But isn't 'nothing but Christmas music' for six straight weeks just a bit of overkill?  So starved am I now for the occasional regular music that I would happily listen to polka. OMG!

What finally dragged me into my SG Syndrome, were scenes from Black Friday, a phenomenon which has now sadly infected Canada.  Talk about a decadent display of consumerism!

Where, I desperately asked myself, is the true spirit of Christmas in all of this and how do I rekindle mine? Miraculously then my light bulb went on. Last year, Melissa challenged her Facebook friends to perform a random act of kindness.  Taking Melissa up on her challenge proved to be one of my most enjoyable endeavours in the Christmas 2013 season. And then there is beautiful Jackie, who after recently watching a homeless lady in a local Newmarket laundromat find warmth and access to a TV for news, gifted her with $60.  What a heart warming random act of kindness! ...... the Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day. Just the antidote I need!

With inspiration from Melissa and Jackie, I have promised myself that for each of the twenty-five days preceding Christmas, I will perform a daily random act of kindness.  It will be MY way to celebrate God's gift which was definitely NOT a fifty inch flat screen TV.   Hey, don't get me wrong; I am not ready for sainthood. My random acts will not be selfless gestures. In return, I hope to find some positive energy and rekindle my spirit of Christmas.

Although I am sure I will spend money, not all of my random acts need be expensive.  A genuine compliment, assisting an elderly person with their grocery bags, allowing traffic to merge are all possibilities.  As the ancient Arab proverb says, If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have little, give of your heart. I feel better already. And who knows, you may actually catch me humming Christmas songs as I act!

Care to join my challenge? Let me know!

Friday, 14 November 2014


I awake to a vision of heavy gray clouds compressing the vibrancy of my morning sunrise into a thin ribbon of peachy soft light. Chilly winds born in the north whip through denuded, forelorn tree limbs whose music is nolonger the swish of autumn leaves, but the clickedy-clack of bare branches tapping out their pre-winter beat.  

Oh, how welcome this fresh cup of coffee feels between my clasped hands. Warmth in the dark morning chill! Gone are the green and golden days of autumn. I open the front room curtains to November's bleak, monochromatic world.  Is this morning's dusting of snow a warning? I wonder.  

Depressing, is how most of my friends describe November.  Too cold and wet, complain others. To bewildered glances, Jim always proclaims his love for the month. Bizarre, is the only word I can assign to this unwavering love of his.

November, I have grown to believe, is Mother Nature's effort at transitioning we mere mortals, how she prepares us for the dark, frigid temperatures and snowy weather of winter. To move directly from glorious autumn to the depths of winter may be too shocking for our fragile systems.  I like to imagine that she sucks the colours out of our world to make the sparkling whites of her snow and ice more welcome sights. At least they cover the "blah".

Midway through November, I sigh. Time for snow tires. Time for locating where I buried our winter boots. Time for coats and mittens and scarves. Yup! All of the signs are in place. Get ready. It's coming.......

Saturday, 8 November 2014


The musings of my "retired" mind when allowed to run amok have been known to create some bizarre ideas and this blog is no exception. Please consider yourself forewarned! 

Herbert Hoover once stated that, War is old men talking, young men fighting.  During the Vietnam War when the carnage tally was at its peak, George McGovern complained, I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.  A journalist during the post 9/11 fighting in Afghanistan theorized that no one under fifty years of age should be conscripted. Save our youth was his call; send our 'old geezers' was his message. With great humour and an inherent grain of truth he wrote, The last thing the terrorists want to see right now is a couple of million old farts with attitudes. Hmmmm! Maybe he had something there.

Vimy Ridge was for me a poignant reminder of war's horrific claim on the young lives who should have been our country's future. My heart ached and aches after that visit. Remembrance Day as always will drive home that message.  

Perhaps, I muse, we should make the politicians who declare war, fight them.  Hey, George Jr., I imagine saying. So you say there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Feel free to go get them, Sir! Can't you just envision his, Are you kidding me, glare?

I imagine a world in which only the retired or over fifty are asked to fight our wars and their responses.

Upon seeing the trenches in World War I:  Are you kidding me?  Muck, cramped quarters and dampness? Hell, my arthritis will kill me. Ah, nope, won't do it!

Or either side in the Battle of Britain training flight crews: Okay, let me get this straight; you want me to fit into that little cockpit?  Do I have guns?  Okay!  Does the other side have guns? Are you kidding me? Pause.  Ah, no. I think not. Nein!

Upon arrival in Korea, Iraq, choose.  Could I get hurt?  Are you kidding me?  I have investments to look after.  Nope, forget it!

When asked to fight in Afghanistan: Will I miss the Saturday night hockey game or next week's golf game? I probably will? You are kidding me, right?  Sorry, then no can do! 

Silly naive musings on a lazy Saturday afternoon yes, but I have to wonder what kind of world we would live in if two rules regarding war were universally accepted by every nation, fringe or terrorist group.  Rule # 1.  All leaders who declare war, must physically fight in that war. Rule # 2. All conscripts must be over fifty.  A more peaceful world, perhaps. I like imagine a world in which, even if war were declared, no one would show up. You are kidding me? you laugh.  Yah, I acknowledge. But what if? 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014


If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep. John McCrae

My hand moves across limestone sourced from an ancient Roman quarry in Croatia, limestone enscribed with the names of 11,285 Canadians killed during World War I, Canadians whose bodies were never recovered or properly buried. C.H. Blackmore. As if using brail, I randomly feel his name. I never knew you, Sir, and never will, I whisper, but thank you. My eyes well with tears and I bow my head to hide the uncontrollable wave of emotion rolling over me. So many names.

2014 marks the 100th. anniversary of the start of World War I.  In September, to honour the sacrifices made by 60,000 Canadian soldiers, Jim and I, with our friends, Cathy and Dave, journeyed into Normandy from Paris to visit the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge.  Emotionally, it was most definitely not an easy day, but, as a Canadian, it was a trip that I will never regret and a day that I will never forget. France, recognizing the importance of this particular battle to Canada, ceded 225 acres at the top of Vimy Ridge to us for construction of our World War I memorial.  Sculptor Walter Allward's monument towers over the Vimy battlefield where a memorial park now preserves trenches, tunnels and craters. What Veteran's Affairs has created is a profoundly visceral, uniquely Canadian experience.

To approach Vimy from Arras is to pass a sea of endless rows of white grave markers undulating in waves across the landscape and seemingly stretching beyond the horizon. Commonwealth, American, French, and German cemeteries all starkly remind the visitor of the human toll claimed by this "war to end all wars".  So many dead.  The war to end all wars, I think. Don't we wish!

To walk the trenches at Vimy is to evoke visions of the horrific conditions our young men were forced to endure. Nightmarish artillery barrages; the menacing crack of sniper fire; rat-infested, waterlogged, muddy living conditions; lice infestations, infections, gangrene and devastating disfiguring wounds in an era with no antibiotics; the ever present fear of death. Dear god, and this was a war that should never have happened.

Like heavy makeup on a pockmarked face, the current blanket of thick green grass does little to conceal shell craters and collapsed trench lines in the surrounding terrain.  Add criss-crossing barbed wire and what an apocalyptic wasteland this must have been, this soil on which so many of our young Canadian boys fought and were killed.

What I was totally unprepared for was the power, intensity and profoundly moving impact of sculptor Walter Allward's stunning monument standing on Hill 45.  The luminous stone structure and figures, carved names of the fallen, and sheer commanding size of the memorial speak volumes.  To the valour of their countrymen in The Great War and in memory of their 60,000 dead this monument is raised by the people of Canada. We will not forget.

What literally brought me my knees and caused a free fall of tears was the sculpture of a grieving Mother Canada.  Standing apart, all alone at the rear of the monument, she stares down at a fallen Canadian soldier and mourns her loss.  Not a Remembrance Day will pass without this image playing in my memory.


Too many conflicts - World Wars I and II, Korea, Bosnia, Afghanistan, now Iraq. Will the list never end?  Our young men and women have died away from home on the soil of too many countries. Too many families and friends have suffered a great hole in their lives, a void impossible to fill. Such sacrifice should never be forgotten. Wear a poppy in remembrance. Attend a Remembrance Day ceremony if possible. At the very least, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, take a moment to remember and respect.