Tuesday, 26 August 2014

God's Perfect Timing

"Stress makes you believe that everything has to happen right now.  Faith reassures you that everything will happen in God's timing." (Unknown)

Thank you to my friend Julie for posting this truth on Facebook.  I needed to be reminded.  It's so easy to want everything in our timing.  But God's timing is perfect.

Sixteen years ago we completed our home study and were waiting for a baby to adopt.  Everybody had a horror story to tell us:  "We waited ten years on a waiting list and still didn't get a baby."  "I haven't seen a healthy baby adopted in my medical practice in 25 years."  The stories went on and on.  However, we held on to a couple of positive adoption stories and, seven months later, we had a bouncing baby boy.  

It was the same situation when Rob entered the PhD program at Western.  "Only half of PhD students ever complete the program."  "Why is Rob wasting his time getting his doctorate?  He'll just end up working at McDonald's."  Times were tough.  We had a little baby.   Deadlines loomed.  Rob was writing and re-writing his thesis, a document the size of our phone book.   Today as I write this Rob's Doctor of Philosophy degree hangs on the wall just above me.  Rob was one of two students to complete the program in a class of five. He is the best paid McDonald's employee I've ever met!  

Now I am at a crossroads in my life.  I would love to go back to school and get my Masters, an item that has always been on my bucket list.  But how can we afford the tuition when we have two children in private schools?  This is where my faith comes into play.  God knows.  He is the one that put the desire in my heart. And He will provide the means.

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" (Psalm 27:14)


Monday, 25 August 2014

Preserving Point Pelee

Entrance to Point Pelee National Park circa 1950's courtesy www.krausehouse.ca.

Birds, butterflies, flora and fauna are all part of Point Pelee's National Park, the southernmost point of continental Canada.  However, in the 1950's and 1960's, the Point looked quite different.  By 1968, three hundred cottages peppered the peninsula.  A record 785,000 visitors congregated in the park.  Automobiles were parked bumper to bumper at East Point Beach.  The human invasion was felt by the local wildlife; ten different species of amphibians and reptiles disappeared.

The overcrowded parking lot at East Point Beach circa 1966 courtesy pc.gc.ca.

Park officials knew that drastic measures were required to restore Point Pelee to its original glory.  In the 1970's, the government starting buying up private land.  Apple orchards, fisheries and cottages were purchased, giving the park an additional 125 hectares.

The DeLaurier Homestead is one of the few buildings that has been preserved courtesy pc.gc.ca.

In the 1980's, a major road was removed.  Park housing and beach facilities at the tip and East Point Beach were also taken out, restoring the natural shoreline.

In the 1990's, the main road to the Point was removed.  The administration and maintenance buildings were relocated outside the park.  Tulips and daffodils planted by cottagers were also taken out.  By 1993, flying squirrels were reintroduced to the area.

Flying squirrel courtesy pc.gc.ca.

In 2000, only one cottage was left at Point Pelee.  The number of yearly visitors had been reduced to 350,000. People still visit the tip, but on foot or by shuttle rather than by car.  Fifty percent of the dry habitat had been restored.  Four hundred buildings had been removed, including six fisheries.  Twenty kilometres of roads had been dug up.

Fall seagull migration at the tip courtesy www.mikephoto.com.

Today, reptiles and amphibians abound in Point Pelee.  The peninsula is the home of Canada's only lizard, the five lined skink.  Hickory, hackberry and sassafras trees flourish in its Carolinian forest.  The point is a breeding ground for 100 species of birds.  Hundreds of birds use the park as a major migration route. Monarch butterflies use the Point as a staging ground.  The white tailed deer's population has outgrown the capacity of the park.  Point Pelee is back.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

H. J. Heinz: The Last Drop of Ketchup

"Before the Great Depression, before colour photos or the world wars, there was the H.J. Heinz Company in Leamington."  

FILES/The Windsor Star

Heinz Factory circa 1920's courtesy financialpost.com.

In June of 2014, the last drop of ketchup was squeezed into a bottle at the H. J. Heinz Company that closed its doors putting 1000 people out of work and leaving a huge hole in the community.  Heinz, located in Leamington, Ontario on the shores of Lake Erie, was the town's largest taxpayer and water user.  The Leamington company, the second largest Heinz company in the world, served as the official sponsor for Tomato Fest each summer.

File/The Windsor Star

Cartloads of tomatoes arrive at the Heinz Factory courtesy financialpost.com.

When we visited Leamington four years ago, we saw trucks laden with tomatoes on their way to and from the factory with the signature smokestack located on Erie Ave.  However, when we visited this summer, we didn't see any tomato trucks.  In years past, Heinz bought 225,000 tons of tomatoes at $95 a ton from 43 Ontario farmers.  Workers would fill the trademark plastic (originally glass) bottles with the label "57 varieties" with the world famous ketchup each day.


Heinz assembly line circa 2009 courtesy financialpost.com.

Heinz not only made ketchup but also tomato juice, tomato soup, tomato juice, baby food and baked beans.  During the First World War, the Leamington plant mailed hundreds of cans of beans to the Canadian soldiers stationed overseas. One young officer was so appreciative that he wrote a thank you note on the back of a Heinz label.


The smoke does not plume from the smokestack on Erie Ave. anymore.  But we have the memories.  Local historian Scott Holland has written an account in his book A Century in the Making:  The History of Heinz in Canada 1909 - 2009.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Keeping up with the Jonasson's

We live in a world where we are obsessed with keeping up with others.  We want the best house or the best car or the best job or the best marks.  We're always looking over our shoulder to make sure we are one step ahead of our neighbour or friend or colleague or sibling.  Life is one big competition.  It is so hard to see what we have rather than what we don't have, to be content in the here and now.

Rob had a friend in university who claimed that he never worked very hard at school.  He questioned Rob, a straight A student, as to why he was trying so hard.  Rob finally said to himself, "Why am I trying so hard?" So, in third year, he didn't put in a full effort.  For the first time since arriving at McMaster, he slipped off the Dean's Honour List.  Rob's Mom warned him about his friend, saying that he was jealous of Rob and that secretly he was trying hard to earn better marks than him.  The following semester, Rob pulled up his socks; once again, his name appeared on the Dean's Honour List.  His friend, realizing that he couldn't compete, dropped out of the Honours program.

Rob's Mom was a wise woman.  We have to be wary in life of "friends" who want to bring us down.  We need to watch out for people who are so competitive, that they are constantly criticizing others to elevate themselves.  Friends should rejoice with us in our successes, not just wallow with us in our failures.


Friday, 22 August 2014

The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto!

thornton blackburn toronto cab W.H. Coverdale

Taxi cab similar to that of Thornton Blackburn courtesy www.blogto.com.

Long before the orange and green taxi cabs raced down the streets of Toronto, a red and yellow box cab, pulled by a horse, rolled along the city's dusty roads. Toronto's first cab company, its operator was Thornton Blackburn, an escaped slave from Kentucky.

In the 1830's, Thornton and Lucie Blackburn worked as slaves in Louisville, Kentucky.  The couple managed to escape via the Underground Railroad and settled in Detroit.  However, slave catchers pursued the Blackburn's and tracked them down.  In 1833, they were recaptured and jailed.  Lucie arranged to trade clothes and identities with Mrs. George French, managing to escape across the Detroit River to freedom in Amherstburg, Upper Canada.

Drawing courtesy www.andrewhutchison.com.

However, Lucie's husband remained in the Detroit prison, shackled and bound.  ON the night before he was to be deported back to Kentucky, a group of 400 blacks protested and stormed the jail, setting Thornton free.  A two-day race riot ensued, the first of its kind in Detroit, during which the sheriff was shot and killed. A posse pursued Thornton's horse and cart, but when they reached it, it was empty.

Thornton had escaped through the woods outside of Detroit to a boat at the mouth of the Rouge River.  The boat transported him across the Detroit River to freedom in Essex County, Upper Canada, one of an estimated 30,000 black slaves to do so.  There, Thornton was jailed briefly but released when the Lieutenant Governor refused to extradite him back to the United States.

John Colborne.jpg

Sir John Colborne, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada.

Thornton, reunited with Lucie in 1834, settled in Toronto.  He sent away to Montreal for the blueprint for a taxi cab.  He built the red and yellow vehicle to be pulled by a horse.  Soon, his taxi business was thriving. He also established the Little Trinity Church, Toronto's oldest church.

He became a staunch abolitionist and helped others settled in the community of Toronto as well as Buxton. Later in the 1830's, he made a daring return to Kentucky to help his mother escape and join him in his adopted country.  In 1851, Thornton along with many other blacks, attended the North American Convention for Colored Freemen held at St Lawrence Hall in Toronto.


St. Lawrence Hall, the site of many abolitionist speeches, including one by Frederick Douglass, courtesy www.torontohistory.org.

Thorton Blackburn died in 1890, leaving a substantial estate of $18,000.  His wife, Lucie, passed away five years later.  In 2002, a plaque honouring the Thornton's was erected at the site of their excavated house, on the corner of Eastern Ave. and Sackville Street in Toronto.

Note:  For more information, read The Underground Railroad:  Next Stop, Toronto (Adrienne Shadd).

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Historic Toronto

                                 Toronto on the Water, The Exhibit returns to Queen's Quay Terminal

Sunnyside Amusement Park courtesy www.yelp.ca.

Sunnyside Beach circa 1924 courtesy heritagetoronto.org.

S.S. Cayuga entering Toronto Harbour courtesy tmhs.ca.

Bicycles for hire courtesy Toronto On the Water exhibit.

Subway photo courtesy joeclark.ca.

Magnificent Cathedral Church of St. James courtesy en.wikipedia.org.

Casa Loma before the city encroached on it courtesy www.blogto.com.

Lawn Bowling at the Hospital for the Insane courtesy archives.gov.on.ca.

A Toronto street car courtesy blogto.com.

Wellington Street East courtesy torontopubliclibrary.ca.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Toronto's Tall Ship

Tall ship Kajama courtesy www.greatlakeschooner.com.

Today my family and I took the GO train from Aldershot station to Toronto.  We walked down to Queen's Quay where we bought juicy hotdogs from a stand and munched on them while ducks splashed in the water below us.  Then we boarded the tall ship Kajama for a cruise on Lake Ontario.  As our boat made its way out of the harbour, we feasted our eyes on the Toronto, the CN tower identifying the skyline instantly.

Despite thunderstorms in the forecast, the sun actually came out and a gentle breeze wafted across Lake Ontario.  It was picture perfect.  A toddler pitter-pattered up and down the deck, his parents chasing after him.  Thomas and Jacqueline made their way to the front of the ship where they were treated to a magnificent view of the lake.  As we passed the Toronto Island Airport, named Billy Bishop Airport after the World War I flying ace, Rob focused his attention on a plane that was taking off.  

Toronto Island Airport courtesy cdn.thegridto.com.

Our tall ship sailed past Ontario Place, now abandonned.  Memories of a sunny day a few years ago flashed through my mind when our kids played at the splash pad, the CN tower in the background.  I'm glad we took our kids there while we had the chance.  Then I spotted an old stone building with a large green domed roof.  The man beside me said that it's part of the CNE.  It reminds me a bit of London's Crystal Palace.

Ontario Government Building at CNE circa 1926 courtesy torontoist.com.

We went a bit further out into the lake; I closed my eyes and simply listened to the the lapping of the waves. As we drew closer to Mississauga's skyline, it was time for the tall ship to turn around.  Slowly we made our way back to the harbour, back to the hustle and bustle of the city.

Note:  If you are interested in the Toronto Waterfront, a free exhibit is on display now until Labour Day at Queen's Quay Terminal called "Toronto on the Water".