Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Magic of a Father and a Daughter

I see the magic of a father and a daughter
As they build sandcastles on the beach.
I watch the pair as they lounge by the blue water.
Knowing fatherhood is something that you cannot teach.

As they build sandcastles on the beach,
He sculpts the sand with a big strong hand.
Knowing fatherhood is something that you cannot teach;
Next to him, she looks so little as she pours the sand.

He sculpts the sand with a big strong hand.
No words are needed as they work sided by side.
Next to him, she looks so little as she pours the sand.
Father and daughter share a bond that they cannot hide.

No words are needed as they work sided by side.
Clad in an orange bikini, she builds the castle tall.
Father and daughter share a bond that they cannot hide.
As the waves encroach, he builds a giant wall.

Clad in an orange bikini, she builds the castle tall.
I watch the pair as they lounge by the blue water.
As the waves encroach, he builds a gaint wall.
I see the magic of a father and a daughter.



Linda Jonasson
July 16, 2006.


Photo courtesy http://download.agefotostock.com


Saturday, 30 July 2011

Thomas' Comic Strips

I am the only one of my siblings that cannot draw.  My students laugh when I draw stick figures on the blackboard.  And yet my son Thomas is very artistic.  He must have gotten his talent from his birthparents, both of whom are very artistic.  About a year and a half ago I borrowed a book from the library titled "Create Your Own Comic Strips from Start to Finish" by Art Roche.  Once Thomas read it, he was hooked.  He started drawing comics left and right under the heading LOLZ (Laugh Out Loud's)  He even featured me in one comic he wrote for Mother's Day.  Rob made the mistake of complaining about the muffins I baked.  Thomas response was:  "Oh no you didn't!"  Rob was spared within an inch of his life and thought twice about complaining about my baking the next time. 

The other day, Thomas borrowed the Art Roche book again from the library.  This time he wrote a comic called "Halloweiner" featuring his friend Riley as a hunchback and an unhappy weiner that is covered in mustard but its luck turns when it meets up with the ketchup bottle.  What do you expect from someone who douses everything in ketchup? 

Thomas has drawn a total of 15 comics.  It's nice to see that he using his God-given talent to create.  It's also nice to see that he's using his sense of humour.  He certainly makes his sister Jacqueline laugh so I'm sure he'll make his readers laugh, too.  Thomas is blessed to have such a creative mind.  Maybe one day we'll be reading LOLZ next to Garfield. 



Comic strip courtesy LOLZ Comix, copyright 2011.



Friday, 29 July 2011

We Shall Never Surrender

"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and with growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets; we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender."

(excerpt of Sir Winston Churchill's speech dated June 4, 1940)

I googled "The Greatest Speeches in History" and I found Sir Winston's Churchill's World War II speech to be voted number 1.  It was one of three famous speeches he delivered to inspire Britons during their darkest hour in the Spring of 1940, the other two being:  "Blood, Toil, Sweat and Tears" and "Their Finest Hour".  The British soldiers had just suffered defeat at the Battle of Dunkirk in France and needed inspiration.  The words of the speech are stirring and powerful, but the way that Churchill delivered it was equally important -- with complete confidence.  If you listen to the speech on Youtube, the Prime Minister starts the speech quietly and then builds the suspense to a powerful finale.  At no point does he yell; he just speaks evenly and smoothly and assuringly.  Contrast that with Adolf Hitler's staccato rants.  No wonder Britain and the Allies won the war. 

A veteran of World War I, he could put himself in the shoes of the soldiers on the battlefield.  He knew how to get his hands dirty.  In fact, he even considered landing with the Allied troops on the beach at Normandy in the D-Day invasion of June 1944, but had to be talked out of his decision by King George VI.  Churchill knew how to inspire the British people.

I heard someone say recently that inspiration literally means "God's breath".  I looked the word up online and discovered two related words "divine guidance".  I believe that it was divine guidance that led Churchill and Britain through the Second World War.  His speeches were a lifeline for his citizens.  It is remarkable that a man who suffered from a stutter when he was young went on to become one of the greatest orators of all time.



Photo courtesy http://4.bp.blogspot.com



      

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Painting

As Whitby feels a gentle breeze.
Swaying sailboats cast silhouettes.
In a window hangs a chemise.
Stone houses with red parapets.

Swaying sailboats cast silhouettes.
Cirrus clouds streak the sky in May.
Stone houses with red parapets.
Cobblestone walkways line the bay.

Cirrus clouds streak the sky in May.
The villagers cannot be found.
Cobblestone walkways line the bay.
Gentle foothills grace the background.

The villagers cannot be found.
Balconies are empty once more.
Gentle foothills grace the background.
Peace surrounds the "Inner Harbour".

Balconies are empty once more.
In the window hangs a chemise.
Peace surrounds the "Inner Harbour"
As Whitby feels a gentle breeze.

Linda Jonasson
June 30,2007.



Painting courtesy www.stephengulbis.com


Whitby Harbour (Watercolour 41cm x 51cm)



Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

I'll give you a hint.  If you read my blog titled "The Berenstain Bears and A Leap of Faith" (June 1), you might figure out who's coming to dinner today.  They are a nice young couple named Lance and Nicole, the same couple we took out for dinner twelve and a half years ago. 

It was an unseasonably warm December day.  A thunderstorm hit as we prepared for the dinner and I struggled nervously to put on my contacts in the dark.  Our nerves disappeared, however, once we reached the restaurant.  Lance was dressed in a white and navy blue sports shirt and jeans.  Nicole was dressed in a pretty yellow embroidered top and pants. We sat in a booth together at Moose Winooski's and the waitor took our picture.  Rob ordered a party size platter of nachos that evening.  I ordered chicken fingers and fries.  But we weren't focussing on the food that night.  We talked up a storm as if we had known each other for years; and yet we had only met two days before.  I can still show you the booth where we dined.  The waitor took our picture, a keepsake from the magical evening.  As Nicole stood up to leave, we could see her round belly.  She was the vision of good health; her beautiful face glowed and her wavy hair shone.  As we said our goodbyes, we knew it would not be long before we met again.

Two days later the phone rang.  Lance announced that Nicole had just delivered a bouncing baby boy of 9 pounds and 20 1/2 inches long.  We jumped in the car and raced to the hospital to see him.  Nicole gave me her precious bundle and I held him like one might hold a fine piece of china.  Lance had already taken lots of photos of the new baby whom we named Thomas Lance:  a shot of him in a hand-knit yellow sweater with a hood that made him look like a little George Washington; a shot of him with a baby book, Pat the Bunny; a shot of him propped up with a soft white Teddy bear and a bouquet of flowers -- all gifts his birth relatives had given him.  There was also a picture of Lance's feet held up to Thomas' feet.  Both had very long toes; they were definitely related.  I fed Thomas his bottle and we chatted for two hours.  Then it was time to go.

We brought Thomas home 13 days later.  What a joy it was to see him grow!  And for the first six months we got a visit from Lance and Nicole.  Always a little nervous at first, once we saw the couple, our nervousness disappeared.  They got to watch Thomas grow like a weed.  We wondered how the visits would pan out.  Afterall, there was no manual to follow.  But God guided us every step of the way.  People wondered if Thomas' birthparents would be interfering; I found that the average Joe on the street had more unsolicited parenting advice than they ever did.  Lance and Nicole gave us their child; giving them these visits was the least we could do. 

Now Thomas anxiously awaits his birthparents' bi-annual visit.  At Christmas time, they come loaded down with gifts.  They must spend their entire pay cheque on presents.  Thomas rips them open, smiling ear to ear.  Now Jacqueline gets presents as well from them.  A couple of years ago she asked me who her birthparents were; when I said that Mommy and Daddy were, she looked disappointed.  So I suggested we make Lance and Nicole her honourary birthparents.  And she agreed.  She is in there like a dirty old shirt as they watch movies and play video games together. 

Today was our summer visit.  Thomas is shoulder to shoulder with Nicole now.  It won't be that many years before he reaches Lance's height.  We always play a soccer game in the backyard.  Usually it's birth family against birth family.  Usually, Lance, Nicole and Thomas win.  I'll use the excuse that they have youth on their side, even if it's a poor one.  Today they beat us twice.  Rob barbecued sausages and I cooked onion soup potatoes and broccoli with cheddar cheese.  We ate out on our new patio (Jacqueline snuck a couple of pieces of sausage through the fence for the dog next door).

The next time I say:  "Guess who's coming to dinner?" the weather might change, the menu might change, the conversation might change.  But one thing remains the same:  the awesome company.  Thank you for giving us your son, Lance and Nicole!  Thank you for being part of our family.  We love you very much!




Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Amber Room

A caravan of 18 Wehrmacht trucks left the Catherine Palace and wound its way through the countryside of Russia to East Prussia.  Inside the trucks were 26 crates and inside the crates was one of Europe's greatest art treasures, the Amber Room.  Commissioned by Frederick the Great of Prussia to be given to Peter the Great of Russia in 1818 as a gift, the Amber Room was an entire chamber paneled in amber, sometimes called "the eighth wonder of the world".  Amber was worth ten times the value of gold at the time and floated in abundance on the shores of the Baltic Sea.  The Prussians had delivered the Amber Room to Leningrad in 18 wagon carts where it had been put on display in the Catherine Palace for the commoners to admire.

There it had sat for over two centuries.  However, when the Nazis invaded Leningrad in September of 1941, they captured the Catherine Palace (Catharine Palais) and occupied it as they did the entire city (the Siege of Leningrad).  Predicting their imminent arrival, the Russians had packed up many of their art treasures, but they had not had time to dimantle the Amber Room.  Hastily they had wallpapered over it to disguise the panels.

Now it was late 1941 and the Wehrmacht was at the gates of Leningrad.  They stormed the palace, ripped off the wallpaper and discovered the Amber Room underneath.  It took the German Army 36 hours to pack up the panels into the crates.  Six months later, the Amber Room arrived in Koenigsberg, East Prussia and was put on display in the museum of Koenigsberg Castle, the original location of its construction.  The treasure was on display to visitors to the city for two years. 

In August of 1944 the Allies bombed Koenigsberg Castle.  Soon after, the Amber Room disappeared.  Eyewitnesses said that they spotted the amber panels at the Koenigsberg train station.  Rumours spread that it was on the ill-fated ship the Wilhelm Gustloff which was torpedoed and sunk by the Russians in the Baltic Sea.  Others claimed that the chamber was hidden in an underground cave.

In March of 1946, Anatoly Kuchumov headed to Koenigsberg to search for the Amber Room.  He discovered some of the 25,000 German refugees hidden in the cellars of the burnt out Koenigsberg homes.  In the rubble of the former Koenigsberg Castle, he found small traces of the Amber Room.  He also found some partially burnt letters explaining the plan to evacuate the Amber Room to a castle in Saxony (West Germany).  Kuchumov discovered three stone mosaic pictures that once decorated the amber panels, although there had originally been four; this gave him hope that the Amber Room had been safely evacuated.  But where?  Evacuating the panels by road would have been virtually impossible given the condition of the roads at the time and the size of the load.  Likely the evacuation was done by train or by boat.  The last train left Koenigsberg on January 22, 1945, the precise time when the amber panels disappeared. 

Interestingly enough, a replica of the Amber Room, started in 1999 and completed in 2004, is now on display in Russia and has been viewed by many diplomats incuding Russia's former President Putin and England's former Prime Minister Tony Blair.  How strange that a regime as evil as the Nazis would have valued an artistic treasure as beautiful as the Amber Room.  Given that they were known for looting European art during the war, though, it should not be a surprise.  The mystery continues.



Photo courtesy www.geo.uw.edu.pl




Monday, 25 July 2011

Niagara: A History of the Falls

Pierre Berton's book Niagara:  A History of the Falls is an excellent read for both Canadians and Americans.  Mr. Berton's book is a history, geography, environmental, business and art lesson all rolled into one.  The reader learns how the Falls came into being and how it has slowly receded over the course of thousands of years.  We hear about the first European to explore the area, Samuel de Champlain.  We learn about the early entrepreneurs who set up shop in the town, some honest and many dishonest, taking advantage of their naive customers.  Niagara talks about the daredevils who were attracted to the Falls including Blondin who crossed the swirling waters several times on a tightrope, once even with a man on his back and once with a table and chair.  We hear about the schoolteacher Annie Edson Taylor, aged 60 or more, who successfully plunged over the Falls in a barrel.  Pierre Berton also mentions Frederic Church who painted beautiful scenes of Niagara Falls, the artist who also created Sunset over the Ice.  Niagara also describes the natural ice bridge that used to form over the Niagara River belong the Falls every winter over which many people crossed.  Power generation schemes presented by inventors like Nikola Tesla (a proponent of the Alternating Current system) are also included.  Mr. Berton devotes a section to Red Hill, a daredevil and later rescuer of many victims of the Falls and the whirpool.  Red saved the crew of a barge that was headed over the brink and then got caught on a small island, its rusty remains still visible today. (On a Grade 8 tour, I was told that the men had to wait until daylight to be rescued and while the sky turned black, their hair turned white.)  Finally, the reader is given a thorough history of Love Canal, the toxic waste site on which new homes were built and whose residents later became deathly ill.  Pierre Berton manages to touch on so many different subjects and yet in such a cohesive manner.  We will never lose our fascination with the Falls.



Photo courtesy http://upload.wikimedia.org



Sunday, 24 July 2011

The TB Test

If it weren't for an x-ray technician botching a TB test, my husband Rob may never have been born.  Rob's Tante Doris (Aunt Doris) and her husband Onkel Ernst were born and raised in Germany.  After World War II they lived for a few years in Belgium and then planned to immigrate to the west, specifically Brazil.  As part of their preparation for the trip, they underwent chest x-rays to prove that they did not suffer from Tuberculosis.  Doris' x-ray passed inspection; however, Ernst's x-ray was rejected since it was considered too small.  So the couple waited for another x-ray to be taken.

In the meantime, the immigration ship sailed to Brazil without them.  They agreed that they would take the next available ship to the New World, regardless of where it was headed.  The next boat was bound for Canada and, with an appropriately sized x-ray this time, Ernst boarded with Doris and their young daughter Ursula.


The German-born couple settled in Hamilton, Ontario in 1952.  One of Ursula's first memories involved a train overturning near Ferguson Avenue, an exciting event for a little girl.  Ernst looked for work at Stelco but was turned down every time.  Discouraged, he was ready to give up when his life took a dramatic turn. 

Doris suggested one day that they go for a walk.  Although Onkel Ernst was not in the mood, he went along reluctantly.  On Liberty Street, they discovered a house for sale that Doris fell in love with.  Striking up a conversation with the owner, the couple discovered that he was on his way back to Scotland.  The new immigrants explained Ernst's job search.  The Scottish man said that he was a Stelco employee; he recommended that Onkel Ernst show up on Monday morning at the steel plant and he would put in the good word for him.  Sure enough, Monday arrived and Onkel Ernst was hired; the couple bought the house on Liberty Street.

Back in Germany, Doris' sister Elfriede was considering defecting from the East to the West.  Onkel Ernst wrote Elfriede a letter (in code) in late 1953 stating that he and his wife would act as sponsors for her and her children to come to Canada.  Elfriede took him up on the offer, and although it took over a year and a half, she arrived with her kids in 1955 (see my June 2 post "Bon Voyage").  The threesome settled on Liberty Street with Ernst and Doris. 

On the day that Hurricane Hazel hit Southern Ontario, another German family was moving on to Liberty Street.  Karl-Heinz Jonasson, his wife, his daughter and brother, Albert, had just arrived a few months before in Hamilton.  Albert took a trip down to Lake Ontario and was amazed at the large rocks that Hazel had blown up on to the beach. 

Within a short time, the Jonasson's met other families on the street including Ernst and Doris and their niece Irmgard and nephew Manfred.  Albert and Irmgard started dating and were married in 1957 at the German Lutheran Church.  Relatives joined the couple at the Germania Club for the reception. 

Ten years later, Irmgard gave birth to a bouncing baby boy named Robert Frederick at Henderson Hospital in Hamilton, the same hospital where I was born.  If not for the botched TB test, Rob may never have been born.  Some mistakes turn out to be blessings.



Photo courtesy http://www.omjournal.org





Saturday, 23 July 2011

Our Ogopogo Encounter

 
     Scotland has the Loch Ness Monster.  Japan has Kawako.  And Canada has Ogopogo.  Possibly named after the Pogo Stick craze of the 1920’s, Ogopogo is a sea creature lurking off the shores of British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake.  My husband and I encountered Ogopogo in the summer of 1992, the year we married.  On an overcast Southern Ontario day, I, with confetti in my hair, and Rob, with a new ring on his left hand, hugged our parents goodbye and headed out west on our honeymoon.  It was like a scene from the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”:  we flew to Calgary (our stewardess saw the confetti in my hair and invited us to talk to the captain in the cockpit); we boarded a train to Vancouver; and then we rented a car to take us into British Columbia’s Interior.  Driving along the highways to the Okanagan Valley, we enjoyed a scene of endless blue skies, lush evergreens and white-capped mountains.  Little did we know we were about to meet a monster.
     After six hours in the car, we arrived in Kelowna and were treated to the breathtaking view of Big White Mountain just outside the city.  Rob slowly guided our rental car up the side of Big White, manoeuvring the tight curves carefully.  At one point we saw a sign that read: "Put belts on tires here." We didn't have to worry about traction, though, since it was the middle of summer.  About three quarters of the way up the mountain we spotted a black and white cow.  Don’t cows belong on farms?  Finally we reached the top of Big White Mountain, parked the car and stretched our numb legs.  Balancing our luggage, we found my Aunt Sandra's condo and unlocked the door:  inside, it was clean, neat and nicely decorated.  This would be our home for the next week, a wedding gift from my aunt and uncle. As the sun set, we could not hear a sound, save the occasional howl of one lonely dog.  We urbanites were all alone on Big White Mountain.
    

     The next day, as Ogopogo swam up the coastline of Okanagan Lake from his Rattlesnake Island home, we headed down the mountain, past the howling dog, past the wild cow and past the "Put belts on tires here" sign to the city of Kelowna.  Our destination was Okanagan Lake.  The weather was gorgeous for a beach day: an azure sky without a cloud, a gentle breeze, and a dry heat.  Opening our picnic basket, a recent wedding gift, Rob and I unpacked it and sat on a blanket eating egg salad sandwiches and drinking Nestea.  After lunch, clad in our swimsuits we waded into the crystal blue waters of Okanagan Lake, a 135 km-long and 5-km wide and 232-metre deep lake nestled between the Rocky Mountains.  It was our first swim as husband and wife.  We were running on the high newlyweds get when they first fall in love and feel like they are the only two people in the world.

  
     But we were wrong – someone else was in the lake with us.  Rob felt something brush past his hand, then saw a long shadow disappear into the depths of the lake.  As my 6-foot-4-inch husband raised his hand up to point out the direction in which the shadow had headed, I noticed he was no longer wearing his wedding ring.  I had heard of newlyweds losing their wedding rings (my Dad lost his in the first six months) but this was ridiculous!  “You’re kidding, right?”  I said to my husband.  “No, it’s gone!” he shouted with a shocked look on his face.  That shadow must have been Ogopogo and he must have eaten Rob’s ring.  I would have made a peace offering to the snake-in-the-lake like the 19th-Century Native Indians did as they paddled in their canoes, but I didn’t have a dead animal in my picnic basket, only a stale egg salad sandwich.  Somewhere inside that creature was a golden ring engraved with the words “To My Rob, Love Linda – July 11, 1992”.  So much for a peaceful day at the beach!

     Yes, we lost the ring, but at least we didn’t lose each other.  I wasn’t about to let Nessie’s Canadian cousin ruin our honeymoon!  Back on that newlywed high, we hopped into our rental car and returned to Big White Mountain. The ski lift hung empty and there was no sign of life.  As we unlocked the condo, I heard the three words every bride longs to hear from her groom:  “I am starving!”  So I warmed some food up in the microwave that we had bought at Safeway in town, given that I was a newlywed and did not yet know how to cook.  After supper, we had nothing to do. The silence was deafening.  So we did what newlyweds usually do – we played Scrabble.

     The following day, we took a trip south to Penticton, near Ogopogo’s home.  The Okanagan's dry heat and fertile soil lend themselves well to growing produce.  If Kelowna was pretty, Penticton was beautiful!  We strolled arm in arm in the fruit orchards, basking in the sun’s warmth.  We picked cherries, Rob doing more eating than picking.  It reminded us of the Niagara Region of Ontario, just with mountains rather than an escarpment.  Aah!  Life was good.

     After five days on Big White Mountain, however, our honeymoon high started to wear off.  I found myself crying due to the isolation we experienced there.  A bride crying on her honeymoon; that just wasn’t right!  What happened to our wedded bliss?  Even though Rob wanted to stay longer to save money on a hotel (we had our first marital fight) we left the condo two days early and wound our way past the howling dog (now silent), the wild cow and the sign saying "Put belts on tires here".  We took one last drive through Kelowna and said goodbye to the sun-kissed valley, the crystal blue lake and a sea creature named Ogopogo. 

     The next day, Rob and I went shopping for a new wedding ring.  Even though it’s not engraved like the first one, it has served its purpose for 19 years.  We also made another purchase at the mall:  two snake-like stuffed animals covered in green fur with big eyes and shark-like teeth.  They would make good presents for our little nieces.  While I was disappointed that Rob lost his ring, I guess Ogopogo needed it more.  Thanks to the elusive sea serpent we now have a lasting memory of our Okanagan honeymoon.



Photo courtesy http://citizenshift.org


    

Friday, 22 July 2011

From the Earth to the Moon

A man threw a rubber ball against a brick wall at a factory in New York state, day after day, week after week, year after year.  This factory worker would prove to be one of the most important people in the United States Space Program.  His name was Thomas J. Kelly.

Years ago Rob and I watched the television series "From the Earth to the Moon" by Tom Hanks.  We have watched it several times since then and still learn details we did not know before about the moon race between the Soviets and the Americans.  Tom Hanks and his writers do an excellent job of tracing the history of the program starting with President John F. Kennedy's declaration in 1961 that the Americans would put a man on the moon, culminating with Apollo 11's successful lunar landing in 1969 and finishing with the anti-climactic final Apollo mission in 1972.

Back in New York State, Tom Kelly and the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Company were selected to build a lunar module that would enable the astronauts to rendezvous on the moon.  Not only did Mr. Kelly have the awesome task of making this happen, but he had limited time to do it.  Episode 5 of From the Earth to the Moon, "Spider", describes how the lunar module came into being.  Tom Kelly had many obstacles in his way.  First they had to find someone with a logical plan to make a lunar orbit rendezvous possible.  They interviewed several scientists, but most of their ideas were rejected, including the theory that they later chose. 

Once Tom and his team found a workable idea, they had to design and build a lunar excursion module or LEM.  Each 12-hour plus day was filled with building, broken up by Tom's short breaks where he would throw his rubber ball against the brick wall outside to help relieve his frustrations.  At one point, they discovered an error and one of the workers confessed that it was his mistake.  Rather than firing him, Tom commended him for coming forward, explaining that if he had said nothing, the problem would have been expounded.  Once he started to see the finished product, he experienced more satisfaction.  However, the time constraint was always on his mind. 

In the meantime, the astronauts experienced their own trials and tribulations.  They were training to orbit the moon in Apollo 1 when tragedy struck:  a fire broke out in the capsule and all three astronauts died.  Apollo missions 2 to 7 were successful, but they did not land on the moon as they did not yet have the lunar module built.  Apollo 8, captained by Jim Lovell, orbitted the moon.  Apollo 9 and 10 were also successful.

By 1969, Tom Kelly and his team were putting the finishing touches on the lunar module and testing it for space.  Like a proud Papa watching his baby take his first steps, Tom had to relinquish control and hand over the LEM to the astronauts.

And what a mission it was.  The Apollo 11 moon landing of course was the mission that the world watched on their black and white televisions.  Captain Neil Armstrong stepped down on the rocky surface and proclaimed "One small step for man.  One giant leap for mankind."  The world saw Buzz Aldrin follow Armstrong down the ladder and set his foot in the dust.

No one saw Tom Kelly.  He is the behind the scenes guy without whom the program wouldn't have got off the ground.  Yes, Mr. Kelly had to juggle a lot of balls to make the moon landing happen.  And most of them landed on the roof of the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Company.  But he had the privilege of seeing his baby land on the moon.



Photo courtesy http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov


Thursday, 21 July 2011

Jesus Christ Superstar

As we made our way along Downie Street to the Avon Theatre in Stratford, the relentless sun beat down on us and a warm wind blew the bottom of my dress up.  A little girl played the violin, the theme from Ken Burns' American Civil War series, her violin case open with coins and a couple of bills sitting in it.  My heart went out to her, especially since she looked no more than 9 years old, and I put some money in the case.  Into the air conditioned Avon, a former movie theatre, we went and I rested my weary feet, sore from the heels I'd been wearing all day.

Rob has had the "Jesus Christ Superstar" soundtrack for many years.  We did not intend on seeing the musical, however, because it was my turn to choose a play and I picked John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath".  But on the way home from London a week ago Rob heard a rave review of "Jesus Christ Superstar" on the radio.  Then he downloaded some of the music and he was blown away.  "It's even better than the original," he claimed.

Rob and I made our way up to the second floor and then climbed the stairs to the top of the balcony.  My six-foot-four-inch husband attempted to squeeze into a seat beside a young man, but it wasn't working.  I offered to trade spots with him so that he would have at least a little bit of leg room.  We settled into our seats, shoulder to shoulder, in a sold out theatre, something rare for the present day Festival.  The air was heavy with heat and anticipation.

The announcer spoke, reminding us of no flash photography or cell phone use during the performance.  The curtain rose and we heard the succinct riffs of the electric guitar.  Within seconds, Rob was hooked.  Judas Iscariot, clothed in a blue outfit, sang 'Heaven on TheirMinds" in a clear, powerful voice.  Later, Mary Magdalene, garbed in a gold dress, sang "I Don't Know How to Love Him".  When praying in the garden shortly before Judas betrays him to the Roman centurions, Paul Nolan who plays Jesus belts out the song "Gethsemane".  The acoustics were excellent.


Rob wondered if the play would indeed have a Christian message.  I felt that it was portrayed in a Christian light for several reasons.  Firstly, those who mocked Jesus were definitely portrayed in a negative light.  Secondly, Jesus drew a crowd wherever he went; people wanted to be in His presence.  Thirdly, in one scene, He is healing several sick individuals.  Above all, I remarked to Rob that the most triumphant song by far in the musical was "Jesus Christ Superstar".

As the production came to a close, every audience member rose to his feet and joined in the heartfelt applause.  Rob was smiling from ear to ear.  "Now that's how to make a hit", he said.  "You take a good play that's already been done, and you make it even better.  No tricks.  Not gimmicks.  Just stick to the script."  The winning formula has produced a musical that is on its way to San Diego after the Stratford Festival season comes to a close.  There is even talk of taking the production to Broadway.  Andrew Lloyd Webber, the creator of "Jesus Christ Superstar", slipped into the Avon Theatre one night to hear a performance and even he gave it high praise.

As we filed out of the theatre, our bodies were warm as well as our hearts.  We retraced our steps down Downie Street and looked up at the night sky dotted with stars.  Our Redeemer lives!



Photo courtesy http://media.thestar.topscms.com 


Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Little House in the Big Woods

This month I am reading my daughter Jacqueline the book Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  It is reassuring to read the same book to my little girl that I read when I was young.  While not published until the 1930's, Laura Ingalls Wilder's books have sold millions and are rarely if ever out of print. The author pays particular attention to detail as she describes life in 19th century America.  She sticks to the facts:  there is no shock value; there are no swear words; their are no gimmicks.  While there are a few pictures in the edition that we are reading, for the most part there is only text.  And yet Jacqueline listens attentively night after night.  The books are timeless and somehow hold the reader's attention.  They are very technical and give us amazing insight into the life of American pioneers.  We learn how to clean a long rifle; how to make maple syrup; how the pioneers held a square dance; and how they scared away a black bear.  Once we have read the first book in the series we will go on to Little House on the Prairie, the title of the television series in the 1970's that I watched as a little girl.  There are 9 books in all and I look forward to sharing every one with my "Half Pint".  What a treasure these stories are!



Photo courtesy http://covers.openlibrary.org


Monday, 18 July 2011

National Ice Cream Day

Yesterday, the third Sunday in July, was National Ice Cream Day in the United States.  I am particular about my ice cream.  I think it's because I worked at Baskin-Robbins for four summers in my teens.  They had 31 flavours of top quality ice cream.  The ice cream giant was ahead of its time:  all employees had to take a Tuberculosis test; there was no smoking on the premises; hands had to be washed between serving each customer; the tubs had to be scraped down; our scoops had to be weighed periodically (originally 2.5 ounces, later 4 ounces); counters had to be wiped off regularly; we could not touch the cones, but had to wrap them in tissue first; we could not touch the bananas when we made banana splits.  The list goes on. 

So when I go in to an ice cream shop, I expect to see the same rules.  I am shocked when I see tubs that have not been scraped down.  I am disappointed when the server touches the cone directly.  I am disgusted when I see ice cream that is melting and mushy.  Or when I see flavours that have been dropped into other tubs.  The ice cream has to be a certain consistency -- not too soft and not too hard.  When I get served, I always have the urge to walk through the gate to the other side of the counter and serve myself. 

Ice cream is the only food that I can eat faster than my husband.  While I like flavours like mint chocolate chip, peanut butter and chocolate and moose tracks, Rob likes butter pecan, the flavour that all of the seniors would order at Baskin-Robbins.  I remember the time that my Grandma and Grandad visited us at our trailer in Grand Bend.  My brother and my Grandad went to an ice cream shop near the beach for cones.  The server asked Grandad what flavour he would like and he said vanilla.  Growing up on the farm, vanilla was the only flavour that they knew how to make.  Kids like fun flavours like Bubble Gum.  Some ice cream companies have really gone crazy and made unorthodox flavours like Foie Gras & Caviar, Candied Bacon and Curry Carrot.

Ice cream, which first appeared in England and America in the early 18th Century, is a timeless, tasty treat.  Happy Ice Cream Day!



Photo courtesy http://savingsscoop.com



Sunday, 17 July 2011

Who Bought Corningware?

"Who bought Corningware?" asked my Grandma Tufts, waking up from a catnap in her gold Lazy Boy chair, her big blue eyes bulging out of her head.  We were gathered in my grandparents' rec room unwrapping our Christmas gifts.  Someone had received Corningware but Grandma had drifted off to sleep and missed the opening of the gift.  She had a knack for pretending not to know what was going on when she really did know.  I always knew she was much brighter than she let on.  It was her way to get everyone in the family laughing. 

Grandma often spoke her mind and I remember my Grandad occasionally tapping her ever so slightly on the shoulder and saying:  "Shh, Dorothy, Shh."  Her response?  "Don't you punch me!"  She had a gift for hyperbole.  Another example of this happened when my Mom bought our first microwave in 1986 and Grandma said:  "Won't it blow up?"

Sometimes, however, she did bite her tongue.  Anglo-Saxon Toronto slowly changed as my grandparents aged.  East York became home to a lot of Greeks and Italians, including some on my grandparents' street.  Their next-door neighbours would make home made wine and bring them a bottle.  Grandma and Grandad were teetotalers, but she was too polite to refuse a gift and so she took it and said "Thank you".  She promptly emptied the bottle's contents down the drain and returned it to the neighbour.  He thought that she drank it so fast that she must have loved it and he gave her another bottle.

Once my Dad and my brother Bill visited to clean out my grandparents' eavestrouphs.  Grandma, doing dishes at the kitchen sink and peeking out the window, warned:  "Look out, Norman.  That looks like number 2 from a raccoon." 

Later, she showed them the new cupboards she had built in her bedroom.  In the meantime, she had something cooking in the kitchen.  Normally Grandma was an excellent cook.  However, on this day she forgot to pour water into the bottom of the bunwarmer.  She raced into the kitchen, grabbed the kettle and poured water on to the buns.  Later, Grandma served hotdogs for lunch.  Grandad ate without complaining; my brother's eyes watered as he ate, but he didn't say a word; but my Dad asked:  "Mother, how come these hotdog buns are so soggy?"  Grandma replied:  "Oh don't you worry about that, dearie."  And no one left the table until all of the hotdogs were eaten.

Grandma, like most women of her generation, never learned how to drive a car.  When my grandparents would come to our house in Hamilton and Grandma was ready to go home, if my Grandad did not move quickly enough, she would often say:  "I guess I'll just walk home." 

Grandma had the sense of humour in our family.  She knew how to entertain us.  Unfortunately I did not inherit this wonderful trait; however, my brother Bill definitely got it.  He keeps Grandma's memory alive with his humorous comments.  My daughter Jacqueline also received some of that wit.  I can remember a few summers ago Jacqueline's favourite stuffie was a giant Dora Doll.  We brought it to my in-laws cottage and Rob accidentally dropped Dora in the sand.  Distraught, Jacqueline said:  "We might as well through it out now!"  I knew she was related to Grandma when I heard those words.  Thank you, Grandma, for making us all laugh.



GRANDMA
(Dedicated to Dorothy Tufts on October 25, 2006.)

Born in Brampton in mid-1909,
Her parents baptized her Dorothy May.
She moved to Toronto when she was nine.
Where they settled on Mortimer one day.

She married a man from a Kirkton Farm.
Their Toronto home was spotlessly cleaned.
Her husband showed such charisma and charm.
For sixty years on each other they leaned.

Her hands baked cookies and casseroles, too.
Her sweet voice made the church choir sublime.
Her house had space for each item, it's true.
Save her son's motor oil and neighbour's wine.

Her sense of humour brought joy to my life.
She was a great grandma, mother and wife.



Photo courtesy http://i-cdn.apartmenttherapy.com


Saturday, 16 July 2011

In the Palm of His Hand

What do Isaac Newton, Winston Churchill, Anna Pavlova and my nephew Cody all have in common?  They were all born several weeks premature and yet you wouldn't know it.  Isaac Newton was so tiny at birth that he fit into a quart mug;  Anna Pavlova arrived at 7 months gestation as did Winston Churchill.  My nephew arrived 3 months early and weighed a mere 2.2 pounds at birth.  You could have held him in the palm of your hand. 

At first Cody stayed in the hospital until he reached the weight of a full term baby.  Then, he went home but made regular trips back to the hospital for check ups.  I remember the doctor suggesting that he get a swing to help with his balance.  Bit by bit, Cody started to catch up.  Although it took him a little bit longer to walk, once he did, he was running in no time.  Although he was always thin, his look was always healthy; even when he got sick, he bounced back quickly. 

Cody was always a quiet boy.  As my Mom said, he would sit back and observe what others were doing.  You might have thought that he wasn't paying attention; but then he would do what someone else had done flawlessly.  I remember when my son Thomas, who was born the same year as his cousin, would sit in his playpen.  Cody didn't like his playpen, but he wouldn't hesitate to climb into Thomas' playpen to play with his cousin.  At one time he had a tutor for Math; and yet he just completed Grade 7 and received an "A" on every Math test.  One time, he was doing something very quietly in his bedroom and his Mom went to see what he was up to.  She discovered his new lamp hanging from the ceiling and Cody, being the son of an electrician, explained that he had just completed "a small electrical job".  Yes, Cody is observant and he doesn't miss a beat. 

We enjoyed a 3-night visit with my nephew this week.  On July 14, we dined on juicy porkchops and cottage cheese pasta.  Then we sang "Happy Birthday" and my nephew blew out candle number 13 on a devil's food cake.  Later, Cody weighed himself; the scale registered 96.2 pounds.  While we can't hold him in the palm of our hand anymore, God will always hold him in the palm of His hand.  Happy Birthday, Cody!



Photo courtesy www.blogcdn.com


Friday, 15 July 2011

Wax On, Wax Off

"Was on, wax off.  Wax on, wax off."  When Mr. Miagi, the sensei in the movie "The Karate Kid", had his student Daniel wax cars to prepare him for karate matches, he not only was giving him a physical exercise, but also a mental one.  When competing, a karate student must be completely focused on the task at hand.  Furthermore, as Julia Cameron says, losing yourself in a task can be a rewarding experience , enhancing the "artist brain".  When you do something like wax the car, you become so absorbed in it, you almost go into a trance-like state.  You forget about your surroundings, your forget about the past, you forget about the future, and you focus completely on the present.  Julia Cameron says that because your mind is so focussed, it is at this point that your creativity peaks. 

The same could be said of activities like gardening, knitting, drawing, writing, playing an instrument or putting together a puzzle.  When immersed in an activity that requires our complete focus and that we enjoy, we create something that one psychologist called "flow".  Activities that promote "flow" can not only raise our creativity level, but lower our stress level.  Immersed in these activities, it's almost as if we are meditating.  It is no wonder that people who actively pursue a passion are often happier than those who do not cultivate a hobby.

Of course, the new hobby that you take up must be positive and healthy to reap the benefits.  Sitting at a slot machine pulling a lever all day is a repetitive exercise that puts you in a trance-like state where you lose track of time; however, you also lose your shirt in the process and possibly your job or your family.  Chain smoking or heavy drinking are also destructive repetitive activities.

When you immerse yourself in a constructive hobby for an hour or two or three, you come back to your problems with a renewed energy.  Stepping back and taking a break from your problems gives you a new perspective on life.  So the next time you feel stressed, go outside and wax the car.  It worked for the Karate Kid.



Photo courtesy www.cinematex.ro/poster

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Family Picnic

The sun is shining, the sky is a crystal blue, the silos rise in the distance, the corn is just about ripe and a slight breeze is blowing on this perfect summer day.  A little girl clad in an orange bathing suit swims with her brother clad in a black suit with red flames on it.  The little girl wears a bright yellow life jacket.  She dips her head in the water like a little duck.  The boy whips down the water slide for the tenth time; then he does a cannon ball off the diving board.  The mother looks at the horizon and is struck by a sense of peace:  her cup runneth over.

This is an excerpt from my journal dated July 13, 2008, the day of the Tufts Family Picnic.  Every year we meet at the Kirkton Woodham Community Centre on the second Sunday in July to converse with our cousins and second cousins and great aunts and great uncles and grandparents.  I remember when my Grandma and Grandpa used to come in their old white Torino with the navy blue roof.  They used to drive all the way from Toronto.  My Grandma couldn't drive and if she got too tired and asked to go home, but my Grandad wasn't moving fast enough, she would say, "I guess I'll just walk home." 

On the cloth-draped table are many foods including potato salad, pasta, turkey, cold cuts, devilled eggs, dinner rolls and fried chicken.  This year we almost didn't bring the chicken, because I chose to make Cottage Cheese Pasta Casserole instead.  However, on our way through Paris, Ontario, Jacqueline asked:  "Are we going to stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken?"  We responded "No, we're eating pasta this year."  And the crocodile tears sprouted.  We stopped.  Luckily we did because once we got to the picnic, we found out that Jacqueline's third cousins, Maya and Savannah, look forward to the fried chicken tradition every year.  When their Dad said that there might not be any fried chicken this year, the girls reassured him that the bucket would definitely be on the picnic table.  We wouldn't want to prove them wrong. 

After stuffing our faces with homemade pie, ice cream and cookies and squares, we play games like Guess the Number of Jelly Beans in the Jar.  My husband Rob came within one of getting the right answer this year.  Last year my Mom won and she gave the jar to my kids.  I remember when my Grandad, a mathematician, used to play the jelly bean jar game; he would used a complicated formula to arrive at his answer.  Later, we head outside for the kiddie games where the children carry eggs on spoons or tie ropes around their ankles and run with a partner or throw water balloons at each other, which of course is their favourite game.  Some of the "big boys" play soccer; you can hear Rob screaming from a mile away when he scores a goal (or misses).  Others play football or even baseball.  My children finish off the afternoon by taking a dip in the community pool, the highlight of the picnic.

The Family Picnic wasn't always in Kirkton.  When I was little, in the 1970's, we used to go to my Dad's cousin Edwin's cottage in Bayfield and we would eat lunch at picnic tables, play games, and then descend the steep cliff to the rocky beach below for a dip in Lake Huron.  The picnic tradition has lasted for decades and I hope it will last for many more.  Giving my children a sense of history and roots is invaluable.  I look forward to the bucket of KFC and the jar of jelly beans on the table next year.  Thank you, Tufts Family, for a great tradition!



Photo courtesy www.supermarketguru.com



Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Narcisse Cantin

     Western Ontario could have boasted a canal running from Lake Huron to Lake Erie and St. Joseph could have been a boomtown if the plans of Narcisse Cantin had have been carried out.  It was in the hamlet of St. Joseph that Narcisse Cantin, son of a French-Canadian ship builder from Goderich, made plans to build a canal.  The young entrepreneur started out in the cattle trade, shipping his stock to Buffalo, New York.  He thought that a canal linking the two Great Lakes would make trade much easier between Canada and the United States. 

     Others agreed and sponsors lined up to support the Cantin Seaway Project including the CPR Railway, Bethlehem Steel, United States Steel, The Bank of Montreal, and the Hudson's Bay Company.  Wilfrid Laurier's Liberal government approved the project and initial plans got underway to support the population that such a project would attract.  The CPR erected a large hotel in St. Mary's Ontario on the Thames River, located between Lake Huron and Lake Erie.  A huge Roman Catholic Church was built in Mount Carmel, a settlement only miles from St. Joseph.  Cantin constructed the three-storey New Balmoral Hotel in St. Joseph and used it to entertain businessmen who could be potential sponsors of his seaway project.  The Saint Joseph area was also home to a brickyard, a wine factory, a pipe organ factory and a carriage factory.  The groundwork was laid for a boomtown.

     In the meantime, Narcisse married a woman named Josephine and they relocated to Buffalo, New York where they resided for seven years.  Upon their return to the St. Joseph area, the Cantin's had started a family which would total ten children in all.  Narcisse became a devoted family man with a deep religious faith, evident in the fact that he named the town formerly known as Lakeview, after Saint Joseph. 

     In Cantin's master plan, he had proposed other canals including:  one linking Port Dalhousie and the Port Colborne area; one linking Prescott and Ottawa; and one linking Lake Ontario and the Atlantic Ocean.  Sound familiar?  Yes, Narcisse Cantin was the original architect of the Saint Lawrence Seaway.  Unfortunately, certain events interrupted the entrepeneur's plans.  The First World War stalled Cantin's plans as all materials were mobilized for the war effort.  Then the government changed:  the Conservatives canned Cantin's project and it would not see the light of day until the 1950's when the Saint Lawrence Seaway was finally constructed.  Furthermore, Cantin's plan to finance his canal with profits from power projects along the Saint Lawrence River was dashed by competition from new investors in the 1920's and 1930's.

     Saint Joseph, in the meantime, became a ghost town.  The New Balmoral Hotel was demolished in 1920.  The old organ factory is now a residential home.  All that remains is the Roman Catholic Church.  The St. Joseph & Area Historical Society will stage a play there this summer in honour of Narcisse Cantin written by Grand Bend resident, Paul Ciufo, the next-door neighbour of my parents.  For ten nights in July, Saint Joseph will come alive, entertaining crowds as it did in the early 20th Century.  And Narcisse Cantin will be smiling.


Photo courtesy www.stjosephmuseum.ca





DETAILS:

Play:  "Narcisse"
Dates:  July 19 - 30, 2011.
Time:  6:00 pm (Tuesdays - Fridays); 6:30 pm (Saturdays)
Place:  St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, St. Joseph, Ontario (Highway 21 north of Grand Bend)
Website:  narcissetheplay.com

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Wall of Fame

     My sister-in-law once said that I was the happiest pregnant woman she had ever met.  If you read my post "The Berenstain Bears and A Leap of Faith" you already know that Rob and I adopted our son, Thomas, back in 1998.  However, I haven't told you the story of how we got our daughter, Jacqueline, in 2003.  We always agreed we wanted to have children and a couple of years after we married, we tried to start a family.  I was pregnant in 1995, 1996 and 1997, but I suffered three miscarriages in a row. 

     By the summer of 1997, I was referred to a brilliant fertility specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton who put me through a series of tests where I was poked and prodded and where I underwent major surgery.  Rob was impressed to see that Dr. Daya, rather than guessing at the problem as every other doctor had done, approached the problem like a true scientist and tried to eliminate every possibility before arriving at a diagnosis.  In the end, he determined that I had three problems:  low progesterone (easily fixed), a uterine septum (or what my husband called the Berlin Wall) and endometriosis (the hardest of the three to fix).  Dr. Daya performed surgery to eliminate the uterine septum during which he had to remove one ovary as well due to damage from endometriosis. 

     Thanks to the surgeon's touch and the grace of God, I came out of the surgery stronger than ever.  It took several months, but I was finally given the green light to conceive again.  Two weeks later, we got the call to adopt our son.  One social worker had wanted a commitment from Rob and I to either adopt or to give birth; however, we did not want to be put in a box like that and secretly continued to work towards both goals.  "Afterall," I said to Rob, "they're not the baby police."  Of course, within seven months of getting on the adoption agency's waiting list, we brought home a bouncing baby boy.  Thomas became our family; we knew if we had one child or ten we were parents now.

     In the meantime, we kept trying to have a biological child while not eliminating the possibility of adopting a second time.  When Thomas turned 4, I took him to the doctor for a yearly check-up and as an afterthought, I asked for a pregnancy test.  Shocked, I found out that I was almost two months pregnant since I had already taken a home pregnancy test that came out negative.  Back to Hamilton I went to Dr. Daya who watched me like a hawk for the next three months, giving me several ultrasounds.  Finally, like a lioness letting her young cub out into the wild, the specialist said that I was ready to graduate to the next doctor since he specialized in fertility rather than obstetrics.  Dr. Daya had given me such confidence; what would I do without him?

     Thankfully, my new doctors, who would oversee trimesters two and three of my pregnancy, were quite competent.  With each month, my confidence grew.  On St. Patrick's Day, I had a 20-week ultrasound that showed my baby was right on target.  I had been holding my breath for 5 months and I finally let a sigh escape:  "Hey, I think I can do this!" The doctors said I needed no further ultrasounds; once again, I felt a little lost.  What would I do without the reassurance of that tiny form on the screen?  My new source of comfort became my baby's kicks.  Often when I laid down at night she would kick up a storm.  The regular kicking sensation, rather than annoying me, was a constant form of reassurance.  The regular visits to the doctor's office also gave me a chance to hear the baby's heart beat. 

     Although I was convinced the doctor would order me to bed before the pregnancy was full term, it never happened.  I taught right until the end of the school year.  With my belly expanding, I was thrilled to finally look the part.  Pregnancy was a surreal experience for me; it felt like it was happening to someone else.  I still refused to buy any baby clothes or toys.  But I did allow my husband to take my photograph once I reached my third trimester.  I needed some proof of this pregnancy. 

     On July 11, 2003, Rob and I dined at Al Dente's for our 11th wedding anniversary.  That night while I was sleeping, I felt a slight tug in the middle of my back, but thought nothing of it.  The next morning, I discovered that I had slight spotting.  I had not spotted through the entire pregnancy and eventhough I was not due for another 3 weeks, we decided to visit McMaster to check it out.  The doctors hooked me up to a baby monitor and after three hours, sent me home saying that it was just a false alarm.  I laid down for a couple of hours to see if the spotting would stop; however, when I stood up again, it was like Niagara Falls had let loose. 

      On the second trip to the hospital I actually experienced labour pains.  They examined me and said that I was definitely in the early stages of labour.  We arrived at 8 pm and my little girl was born at 9:41 pm via C-Section (due to my earlier surgery, the doctors did not want me to have a regular birth).  She weighed 6 pounds, was 18 inches long and was in perfect health.  Hallelujah!  In the end, I had a textbook pregnancy and went full term at 37 weeks gestation. Our daughter's baby photo was posted on Dr. Daya's "Wall of Fame" along with dozens of other miracle children whom he had helped bring into this world.  Our son held his new sister, beaming with pride.  He adored his little sister right from the start and became a devoted big brother. 

     My little girl turns 8 years old today.  I can't cuddle her anymore.  I don't feed her bottles.  I no longer burp her.  And I don't change her diapers.  But she'll always be my little girl.  Thank you for being my girl, Jacqueline.  Happy Birthday!



Photo courtesy http://image.shutterstock.com



Monday, 11 July 2011

Happy Anniversary, Rob!

I'll always remember my year of Teacher's College with fondness:  the walks along the Detroit River, the dinners at Swiss Chalet, the visit to Point Pelee, the trip to Fort Malden, the semi-formal in McPherson Hall, the trips to Devonshire Mall.  Nineteen-ninety was our year and Windsor was our town.  Your roomate James said that we were meant for each other when we realized that we both had the 40 presidents of the United States memorized.  I remember how unseasonably warm Windsor was since it was so far south.  Although it was autumn, it still felt like summer.  I recall a certain trip to Devonshire Mall in the K-car and on the way home, all of a sudden, you hit the steering wheel and announced:  "Okay, let's go out!"  I was taken aback by the way you said it, but then I said yes.  Later, I realized that you blurted it out so that you wouldn't lose your nerve.  Our first date was Thanksgiving weekend back in our hometown, Hamilton.  That evening remains a blur in my memory since I was floating on air.  Within two weeks, you introduced me to your parents.  By November, you said the three words everyone longs to hear:  "I love you."  Our first Christmas together was so exciting.  On Boxing Day, you said:  "I'm going to ask you to marry me" and took me by surprise once again.  Knowing marriage was forever, I was 99 % sure, but I wanted to be 100% sure before I said yes.  I got my answer on New Year's Eve.  We attended a house party and at midnight, I couldn't find you to wish you a Happy New Year.  You were only in the next room, but a strong feeling came over me:  I knew I could not live without you.  We shopped for a ring at Devonshire Mall in January.  On February 27, you hid the ring in a Bette Midler cassette case, knowing that I always played "our song".  Your carefully laid plans did not work, however; somehow, I opened the case without disturbing the ring.  So you asked me to open it again at which point I did find the ring.  Down on one knee, you proposed and I screamed "Yes!"  Back to Hamilton we went on the March Break to make the big announcement to our parents.  I remember hiding the ring from my Mom because I wanted it to be a surprise -- was it ever!  On July 11, 1992, my Dad walked me down the aisle at Olivet United Church in Hamilton.  I had never been so confident about a decision as this one.  You waited patiently at the front of the church.  One of the bridesmaids sang "Give Me the Gift of Love" by Bette Midler and we cried happy tears.  We exchanged our vows and exited the church as Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jonasson.  After the ceremony the photographer took his mandatory 1000 shots as the sun shone down on us and a gentle breeze blew across the Dundas Valley.  Just when we were ready to collapse, the photographer dismissed us.  What a great celebration we had overlooking the escarpment at the Golf & Curling Club.  Every guest was in a good mood.  The Tufts and the Jonasson's got along famously.  We danced to "From a Distance" and our parents danced to "Faithfully"; even my Dad had a smile on his face, despite the musical selections.  Thanks for nineteen wonderful years.  Happy Anniversary, Rob!



Photo of Detroit River & Skyline courtesy www.deskpicture.com



Sunday, 10 July 2011

She's Scared of That Little Guy

She's scared of that little guy, whispered the little girl as she pointed to a cherub-faced doll with a tuft of hair on its head.  The little girl was my 3-year-old niece who was attending our wedding rehearsal party at my future in-law's house.  The "little guy" was a friend of my fiance's who was making googly eyes at my niece but she wanted no part of him.  The doll was my future sister-in-law's doll that she played with as a young girl.  I remember that evening as if it were yesterday; and yet it was 19 years ago. 

My niece, Amanda, is 22 years old today.  What happened to the little girl who complained about a bee in the "towlet" when she went into her Grandma and Grandpa's washroom?  What happened to my flower girl who, dressed in a white satin gown to match mine, ran down the church aisle with my bouquet when she saw her daddy waiting at the front with his camera?  What happened to the little girl who came to my apartment to sleep over a few months after Rob and I got married, ate a box full of Smarties and threw up on our duvet?  What happened to the niece who danced to the Lenny Kravitz song "Always on the Run" that her uncle used to play?  What happened to the little girl who sang solos in the Hamilton Children's Choir at the magnificent Christ Church Cathedral on James Street North?

Well, Amanda's all grown up now.  Although she still has a beautiful singing voice, she is the teacher now rather than the student.  She continues to dance to music, although it might be on her new I PAD rather than on CD's.  She still likes chocolate, although her sister likes it more.  She still looks pretty in a white dress, but she is more likely to wear a bridal gown than a flower girl dress in the near future.  She continues to stay away from creepy guys who make googly eyes at her.  And she still complains about bees in the "towlet".  Thank you, Amanda, for all of the memories.  Happy Birthday!




Photo of Hamilton Children's Choir courtesy http://www.kathaumixw.org/ 
Amanda is located in the 3rd row from the front, the third girl from the left.


Saturday, 9 July 2011

Roger's Ride

On this day in 1960 a seven-year-old boy plunged over Niagara Falls in nothing more than a life jacket and lived to tell the tale.  Roger Woodward and his sister were invited by family friend Jim Honeycutt to go fishing for the day on his motorboat in the Niagara River.  As they travelled down the river closer to the Falls, the boat's motor cut out after hitting a rock.  Jim could not fight the strong current and the threesome headed closer and closer to the precipice at the Horshoe Falls.  The boat capsized, throwing its three occupants into the frothy waters of the river.  Jim, not wearing a life jacket, was pulled over the Falls and drowned at the bottom of the chute.  Roger's sister, Deanne, who had thrown on a lifejacket, managed to grab on to something solid and was rescued by two tourists only 20 feet from the edge of the Falls.  Roger, in his lifejacket, was pulled over the Falls, landing in a pool of water rather than on the jagged rocks in the whirlpool, and bouncing back up like a cork.  After swimming for a few minutes, he was rescued by the Maid of the Mist.  What was Roger's first word upon being rescued?  "Gosh!"  Although suffering a mild concussion and some scrapes and bruises, Roger was able to make a full recovery from his plunge over Niagara Falls.



Photo courtesy http://www.niagarafrontier.com/


Friday, 8 July 2011

My Writer's Club

Three years ago I joined a Writer's Club.  We meet once a month and exhange our writing for critiquing.  Although our group is small, I have learned a lot from our members.  Every November, we have participated in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) together.  The task of writing a 50,000-word novel in a month can be overwhelming, but not when you have three other people tackling the same task.  Healthy competition spurs us on.  Well, what have we done with our novels?  My first book sits on a shelf right now.  However, I have turned my second book, about the British Home Children, into a children's picture book and am now seeking a publisher.  One member of our writers' group, Heather, is researching and writing an historical novel about Paris, Ontario during the Great Depression.  Karen, our leader, is working on a fantasy piece.  Our most recent member, Mary Ann, just had her short story published in A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider!  She is an inspiration to us all.  Last month we attended the Christian Writer's Conference in Guelph.  The faculty packed an incredible amount of information into three days worth of sessions.  What fun it was to drive back and forth together and to share this amazing experience with my Writer's Club mates.  Yes, joining the Writer's Club was a great decision and one that I recommend for any aspiring writer.   Thank you, fellow authors!



Cartoon courtesy http://www.cartoonstock.com/




Thursday, 7 July 2011

La Prisonniere

Malika Oufkir, imprisoned in a Sahara Desert jail, dug a tunnel to freedom with a spoon.  Her father, a high ranking official in the Moroccan government, became the right hand man of King Hassan II in the 1960's.  The King liked him so much that he "adopted" his daughter Malika who moved into the palace for a few years to act as the companion of the King's daughter, Princess Amina.  By 1972, however, Mr. Oufkir betrayed the Moroccan monarchy by attempting to assassinate King Mohammed V, but without success.  He and the other would-be assassins paid with their lives. 

Malika, her five younger siblings and their mother would also pay.  They were imprisoned in a secret jail in the middle of the desert where Malika helped keep her siblings' spirits up by telling them stories night after night.  As she told her tales, they would all take turns digging in the sand with a spoon.  Hearing stories helped distract the children from their miserable situation; digging a tunnel gave them a purpose.  Day after day, week after week, they scooped up spoonful after spoonful of sand.  Malika's positive attitude helped her transcend her miserable surroundings, spending much of the time in solitary confinement.  Her approach was similar to that of Victor Frankl, a concentration camp inmate during World War II, who refused to be broken by his captors.  Finally, one day in 1987, they broke through to the desert surface and found their way to freedom only to be returned to jail five days later.  They were placed under house arrest for another four years, and then officially released in 1991. 

In 1996, the Oufkir's were given permission to leave Morocco.  Forty-three year old Malika immigrated to France where she met a man and got married.  She, along with her siblings, converted from Islam to Catholicism.  In 1999, she wrote a book about her experience called La Prisonniere which was later translated into English as Stolen Lives:  Twenty Years in a Desert Jail.  In the meantime she has championed the cause of other political prisoners.  It is inspiring to see that Malika has risen above her tragic circumstances to help not just her own family, but others as well.



Photo courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/




Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Wisdom in a Game of Mini-Golf

When we were playing mini-golf one evening, a thought struck me about life:  the mini-golf course is a micro-cosm for life.  I had missed a shot and realized I had two choices:  either I throw up my hands and let the whole game go to pot or I regroup and come back stronger than ever.  When you take a wrong turn, you can either fall apart or re-focus and not let it affect your direction.  This is not just true on the golf course but in the kitchen as well.  Rob was feeling guilty about eating too much one day.  Well, he had two choices:  he could have given up and eaten everything in sight or he could have said to himself that tomorrow is another day and I'll get back to eating healthy again.  Regrouping is also an important tactic on the battlefield.  Some of the most successful battles in history were fought on the heels of crushing defeats.  For instance, the British were defeated at Tobruck, Libya and later beat the Germans at El-Alamein, Egypt in 1942.  Back on the mini-golf course, I was defeated by my son 65 - 61.  Well, there's always next time.




Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Between D-Day & VE Day

We watched Tom Hanks World War II mini-series "Band of Brothers" in 2008.  The series is about an American troupe called "Easy Company" who fought in Europe in World War II.  They fought on the D-Day beaches.  They also fought in Operation Market Garden.  Remember the paratroopers floating over Holland?  And they participated in the Battle of the Bulge where they almost froze to death in Belgium's Ardennes Forest.  You would think that D-Day would have been the ultimate triumph; but it was only the beginning.  The Allies, although gaining much momentum after landing on Normandy's beaches, had to dig their heals in and fight some of their most vicious battles between D-Day (June 6, 1944) and VE Day (May 8, 1945). 

D-Day photo courtesy d-day-invasion.jpg



Our former minister, Donald Young, once said that the period we live in now, between the first and second comings of Christ, is like the stretch between D-Day and VE Day.  As Christians, we are certain that Christianity will triumph in the end.  However, we have to let the story play itself out first.  Some of our most difficult battles have yet to be fought; but we will win the battle.  We have to be strong like the Allied soldiers in Europe who also had a noble cause.  In the end, the Allies not only liberated civilians, but also concentration camp victims.  Holland was so grateful for Canada's role in their liberation that its residents still send us tulips each Spring. 


V-E Day photo courtesy www.toronto.ca/archives








Being Christians in today's society is not easy; we often seem to be the target of others.  Speaking the truth often makes us unpopular.  "Easy Company" troupe definitely did not have it easy, but they persevered and they won the war.  We Christians will, too!

"And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:32)

Monday, 4 July 2011

Strawberry Picking

Every June we go strawberry picking as a family, a tradition that Rob used to do with his Mom and Oma when he was a boy.  However, this year I went strawberry picking by myself when the kids were in school as I had promised to provide fruit for the Grade 8 Graduation dinner.  June turned into July and we still hadn't gone as a family.  Rob suggested that we go cherry picking instead, reminiscing about the days he used to climb up on his parents' picnic table and pick cherries off the cherry tree till his heart was content.  Then he would guzzle water from the garden hose.  However, my daughter is no cherry picker; it had to be strawberries.  So, after making some inquiries, we found out that strawberry season has not yet passed due to the cold, wet Spring we had this year.

We headed to Brantwood Farms, parked and took our empty quart boxes into the field.  Everyone has their own technique.  I pick slowly and carefully.  My son stays in one row and picks the bright red ones that do not yet spray juice when you squeeze them.  My daughter shifts from row to row looking for the biggest strawberries.  My husband, while he picks the best strawberries, takes longer than my son because he eats half of them.  Our boxes filled to the brim and our fingertips stained red, we headed back to the shack where Rob paid Farmer Tom. 

Back at home, we gave one quart to our elderly neighbour and two quarts to my daughter's friends.  The one quart that remains will be eaten by my husband and son.  You see, my daughter and I don't even like strawberries.  We just enjoy the company we keep in the strawberry fields.  Until next year.


Photo courtesy http://www.greenlivinggirls.com/


Sunday, 3 July 2011

My Twelve Year Old

This has been a major year for my son.  When I hear him in the next room, I think I'm listening to a man.  He is starting to grow hair on his legs.  He asks me to buy deodorant at the grocery store.  And he puts on acne cream at bed time.  What happened to my little boy?  His shoe size has surpassed mine.  He is hungry all of the time.  He eats faster than I can put the food on his plate.  And he burps like a construction worker.  What happened to my little boy?  He wants an I Pod (he bought one this year with his own money).  He wants his own e-mail account (he just got one last month).  He wants to go on Facebook (not until he turns 13).  What happened to my little boy?

And yet today was different.  We spent the day in Long Point for my niece's birthday party.  We gathered at the beach where my son, my daughter (almost 8) and their cousins, only 7 and 3, played together nicely.  They frolicked in the water with their boogie boards.  They built sandcastles like it was 5 years ago.  And they buried each other in the sand.  Although my little nephew spent some of the time napping on his towel, sunbaked.  My twelve and a half year old enjoyed it just as much as his much younger sister and cousins. 

We returned to the cottage where the four of them watched "The Magic School Bus", with red faces and sandy feet.  Then we dined on thick juicy porkchops and homemade potato salad cooked to perfection.  The birthday girl blew out the candles and we dug into the carrot cake.  My big boy sat on the couch with his little boy cousin as they devoured their cake. 

Yes, for an afternoon, I had my little boy back.  I can rest easy.  At least until he asks for the car keys!


Photo courtesy http://static.guim.co.uk/