Friday 27 June 2014

Ten IslandsYour Child May Never See

1.  Australia's Lady Elliot Island

2.  Tuvalu

3.  Galapagos Islands

4.  Cook Islands, New Zealand

5.  Marshall Islands, Pacific

6.  New Caledonia, Pacific

7.  Republic of Palau

8.  Solomon Islands


9.  Seychelles, Africa

10.  Maldives

Thursday 26 June 2014

Ten Best Smells from Childhood

1.  A Freshly Opened Crayon Box

Drawing with crayons is always the most fun when you use new ones.  Even though I drew stick figures, I liked colouring in colouring books.

2.  New Running Shoes

I used to love visiting shoe stores so that I could inhale the scent of the new running shoes.

3.  Chocolate Chip Cookies

Every child remembers his or her mother baking cookies in the oven.  The scent was heavenly.  The anticipation of eating them was even better.

4.  Grandma's House on Thanksgiving Day

"Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go!"  The scent of roasting turkey and baking pie filled every nook and cranny.

5.  Swimming Pools

I remember my baby brother and I swimming in the pool everyday in Jacksonville Florida when we were on vacation.  It was the highlight of the day!

6.  A Bonfire on a Late Summer Evening

The smoke lingers on your clothes, the memories in your mind, from the bonfires you attended as a kid.

7.  Popcorn

Movie theatre popcorn, drizzled with butter, is the most memorable smell.

8.  Birthday Candles

I remember making a wish every year when I blew out my candles.  Now I'm so old, the candles wouldn't all fit on the cake!

9.  New Book

It was so exciting opening a new book for the first time!

10.  Tomato Juice

To this day, I do not like the taste of tomato juice.  But I do like the smell.  That's because it reminds me of our trips to Wimblewood Beach on the shores of Georgian Bay.  We would spend a week with my grandparents.  We would swim and play shuffleboard by day and dine in the dining hall by night.  A bell would signal that dinner was ready.  Without fail, a glass of tomato juice would sit above every plate.  And without fail, I would secretly pass it over to my Dad to drink.  Great memories!

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Ten Sounds Your Child Will Never Hear


I grew up in a house with a rotary dial phone.  It was a neat experience dialing a number and having the dial make a click click click sound as it snapped back.  First introduced in 1904, it didn't enter the Bell Telephone System in the United States until 1919.  It was replaced by the touch tone phone which first appeared at the World's Fair in 1964.


I first used a typewriter in typing class in high school.  I was so pleased with myself when I reached 40 words a minute.  We used an eraser which looked like a pencil to get rid of mistakes (or liquid paper). Canadian author Pierre Berton typed all of his manuscripts on a typewriter.  By the 1990's, however, many people were using computers.


My in-laws used to buy fresh coffee beans, grind them with a coffee grinder, and pour them into a percolator to make coffee.  It was a timely process but they swore that it made a better cup of coffee.


My first camera had a flash cube.  It was a little square black number which required a flash cube that was bigger than the camera.  While it was a bit noisy, it took decent pictures.


In an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond called "Jazz Records", Frank is very upset because his son Robert accidentally destroyed all of his records as a child.  Raymond thinks he will solve the problem by buying his father the same jazz albums, but on CD.  Frank, however, is not happy with the CDs; he wants his records.  Robert searches for the albums at a garage sale and gives them to Frank for Christmas.  Frank is thrilled!  He sits by the record player listening to the records, like bacon sizzling in a frying pan.


In the old full serve stations, a hose used to be stretched across the driveway of the station and when a car drove over it, it dinged, alerting the attendant that he had a customer.  Most of us liked the convenience of full service.  But my Dad, ever protective of his vehicles, used to jump out and serve himself before the attendant had a chance to do so.


At 2 am, an announcer we come on to say "We now conclude our broadcast day.."  This would be followed by a reading from "High Flight", the playing of the National Anthem and then a long beeeeeep which signified a test pattern.  I also remember NBC announcing "It's 11 o'clock.  Do you know where your children are?"


Push button cash registers were slow.  But once a cashier got into a rhythm, she could go pretty fast.  I used a cash register as a teenager at Baskin Robbins.  However, that model had flat rather than round buttons.


I had a history teacher in Grade 7 and 8 who used to show a film every day.  He would write the following information on the blackboard for us to copy down:  Title, Number of Minutes, Colour or Black & White.  Many of the films were still in black and white.  Rob's Dad had a movie projector which he used to watch home movies.  Rob's stepmother said that it sounded like a plane about to take off if was so loud.


I remember standing up, walking over to the TV and turning the giant dial to change the channel.  Once clickers arrived, it seemed like the men in the household often controlled them.  In our house, my Dad would stretch out on the couch after dinner to watch the McNeil Lehrer Newshour.  Inevitablly, he would doze off. We would try to sneak the clicker out of his hands, and he would open his eyes and announce:  "I was watching that."


Monday 23 June 2014

Seven Words That Came About from Mistakes

1.  PEA

Originally "pease" like in the nursery rhyme "Pease Porridge hot, Pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot nine days old", this word was often mistaken as the plural form.  By the 17th Century, people started dropping the "se" and calling the vegetable a pea.


Cherry was originally "cherise" from the old French ("cerise" in modern day).  People thought it was the plural form and changed it to cherry.  


Napron was misheard as apron so many times that by the 17th Century it became apron.


Umpire came from the Middle French "nonper" or without peer. People didn't always hear the initial n.  It evolved into nomper, then omper and now umpire.

5.  NEWT

Originally this word was ewt, but if said with the article an it sounds like newt.  


Originally this word was ekename which means added name.  If said with an it sounds like nekename or nickname.


This word came from the Spanish "El largato" which was corrupted into "largatos" and eventually alligator.


Sunday 22 June 2014

Great Reads for Summer

Here is a recommended non fiction reading list for the Summer of 2014:

1.  Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand).

2.  Carsick (John Waters)

3.  Good Call:  Reflections on Faith, Family and Foul (Jase Robertson)

4.  The Romanov Sisters (Helen Rappaport)

5.  David & Goliath (Malcolm Gladwell)

6.  I am Mulala (Mulula Yousatzai)

7.  Learning to Speak Alzheimer's (Joanne Koenig Coste)

8.  Brilliant Blunders:  From Darwin to Einstein (Mario Livio)

9.  Clouds of Glory:  The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee (Michael Korda)

10.  The Working Memory Advantage:  Train your Brain to Function Stronger, Smarter, Faster (Tracy & Ross Alloway)

Saturday 21 June 2014

Deutschland's Draw

One of the first photographs of Rob I ever saw features him wearing a Germany soccer sweatshirt, his hand risen in the air, indicating the number 1.  That was 1990 the last year that Germany won the World Cup. Every four years, Rob turns into a soccer fanatic.  And I become a soccer widow, according to my sister Lisa.  All other events come second to the soccer series.

Today, we invited Rob's sister Ingrid and her family over for a World Cup game.  Thomas put on his Deutschland shirt, Rob put on his green soccer shirt.  My niece showed up in her white German soccer shirt, with her name on the back.  My nephew was wearing his sister's old soccer shirt.  My sister in law wore a red, black and gold cap. My brother in law also wore a Germany shirt.

Today's game matched up Germany with Ghana.  Germany had already won their first game versus Portugal in a convincing 4-0 final score.  Ghana had lost to the United States in its previous game.  In the first half, Ghana seemed to dominate.  They managed to score twice.  But in the second half, Germany came to life. And with it, Rob.  A young newcomer named Gotze scored a header.  But Ghana came back with not one but two goals.  Germany seemed to be losing its momentum.

Then Germany substituted one player for a veteran player, Klose.  He was on fire!  Within about two minutes he scored (and our house shook as Rob screamed).  The 36 year old Klose did a flip to celebrate the goal which tied him for the most World Cup goals ever scored.  The match was tied.

Even though Germany managed to get several more shots on net, they weren't able to capitalize on them. The game ended with a free kick in which German Thomas Mueller collided with a Ghana player, the former ending up with a bloody face.  Hopefully, Mueller is okay, especially considering he was the one who had a hat trick in the last match up.  We have a rest now until Thursday when Germany plays the United States. Fellow Brantfordites, if you hear screaming, you know Germany's scored.

Friday 20 June 2014

Marine Biologist Creates Spongeboy

My teenager and my preteen are sitting in front of the TV watching Sponge Bob this evening.  It is nice to see that they still enjoy cartoons once in a while.  I googled Sponge Bob and discovered that he was created by a marine biologist/animator named Stephen Hillenburg.  It is Nickelodeon's highest rated show, bringing in $8 billion worth of revenue.  Many of the ideas for the series sprang from an educational comic book called The Intertidal zone, also created by Hillenburg.  The show was originally titled Spongeboy Ahoy, but that name was already trademarked.  The title character was slated to be a jellyfish.

When it came time to pitch his idea, Hillenburg arrived at the studio in a Hawaiian shirt.  He set up an underwater terrarium with models of the characters and played Hawaiian music to set the scene.  The cartoonist was worried when at one point the executives stepped outside the studio; however, it was simply because they were laughing so hard they had to excuse themselves.  A few minutes later, they said Hillenburg got the job.  Fifteen years later, it's still a hit.

Here are the top ten episodes of Sponge Bob Square Pants:

1.  Pizza Delivery
2.  Graveyard Shift
3.  Valentine's Day
4.  Band Geeks
5.  Rock Bottom
6.  Opposite Day
7.  Dying for Pie
8.  Squillium Returns
9.  Rockabye Bivalve
10.  Chocolate with Nuts

Thursday 19 June 2014

A Pool Party

It's hard to believe that today was Jacqueline's last day of Grade 5.  Where did the time go?  Jacqueline was invited to a pool party this afternoon at her classmate Nathan's house to celebrate the end of school.  He lives out in the country on a quiet road, his backyard backing on to a creek.

The day dawned cool and cloudy.  However, by the early afternoon it was sunny and warm.  When I dropped off Jacqueline and her friend Joanna, a big group of boys was already there, swimming in the pool. Jacqueline and her friend Joanna changed into their suits and jumped into the clear blue water.  Soon enough, the pool was full of fifth graders, splashing and laughing.  They played with noodles of every colour of the rainbow.  Someone figured out that if you put a noodle up against the filter , a fountain of water spouts out.

Nathan's mom called the kids for lunch and they munched on hot dogs and chips, their towels slung over their shoulders.  Some of them sunned themselves on the driveway until they dried off.  Then it was back in the pool again.

Later the girls climbed out of the pool and hopped on the trampoline.  Once their energy was spent they sat on the trampoline cross-legged as if they were participating in a yoga class.  Meanwhile, the boys climbed the steps to the tree house, and declared it their fort, no girls allowed.  It's nice to see at this age, there's still a division between the boys and the girls.  They haven't yet reached the stage where so and so likes so and so. They've got the rest of their lives to figure that one out.

What a great end to a great year! Thank you, Nathan!

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Andrew Carnegie's Letter to the Editor


Pittsburgh Dispatch courtesy

When Andrew Carnegie was growing up in Scotland, he used to listen to men read aloud from the poetry collection of Robert Burns and the novels of Sir Walter Scott in the Tradesmen's Subscription Library, an association started in large part by his father.  When he moved to the United States as a teenager, he looked for a similar library and found one in the town where he settled, Allegheny, Pennsylvania.  However, at the time he was working in a textile factory for the meager salary of $1.20 per week.  Workers were denied a subscription; only apprentices and tradesmen were permitted access to Colonel James Anderson's library.

     Andrew wrote a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch and got immediate results.  The library opened its doors to all Pittsburgh workers from that day on.  The young factory labourer, and later railroad worker, devoured the literary essays of Charles Lamb and Thomas Macaulay.  He loved works of history, especially George Bancroft's History of the United States.  He became a regular reader of the Pittsburgh papers and the New York Daily Tribune.

     Mr. Carnegie did not forget his early years in the United States when he struggled financially.  He wanted to give back to the community.  He invested his steel fortune in libraries.  In the United States, he opened 1689 libraries, in Canada, 125.  These "temples of learning" were known for their turrets, columns and arches, making them among the finest buildings in the towns they served.  As Andrew Carnegie said:  "A library is the best possible gift to a community for it gives people a chance to improve themselves."  How ironic that the multi-millionaire who opened hundreds of libraries in North America and in Britain, was denied access to the one in his hometown.

Andrew Carnegie, age 16, with his brother Thomas courtesy

Tuesday 17 June 2014

The Never Ending Trail of Tears

In my last post I talked about the Great Smoky Mountains and how President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, forcing the Cherokee out of the mountains and across the Mississippi River.  The exile of the Cherokee, along with other Indian tribes, to the Oklahoma Territory, is now referred to as "The Trail of Tears".  Here is a map of the route that they followed in the years 1831 to 1839.


The White honor the Hermitage
And the man who once lived there
But that leader of our nation
Was cruel, unjust, unfair.

He ordered the removal
Of the Cherokee from their land
And forced them on a trek
That the Devil must have planned.

One thousand miles of misery
Of pain and suffering
Because greed of the white man
Could not even wait till spring.

We should bow our heads in shame
Even unto this day
About "The Trail of Tears"
And those who died along the way.

It was October 1838
When seven thousand troops in blue
Began the story of the trail
Which, so sadly, is so true.

Jackson ordered General Scott
To rout the Indian from their home
"The Center of the World" they loved
The only one they'd known.

The Braves working in the fields
Arrested, placed in a stockade
Women and children dragged from home
In the bluecoats shameful raid.

Some were prodded with bayonets
When they were deemed to move too slow
To where the Sky was their blanket
And the cold Earth, their pillow.

In one home a babe had died
Sometime the night before
And women mourning, planned burial
Were cruelly herded out the door.

In another, a frail mother
Papoose on back and two in tow
Was told she must leave her home
Was told that she must go.

She uttered a quiet prayer
Told the old family dog goodbye
Then her broken heart gave out
And she sank slowly down to die.

Chief Junaluska witnessed this
Tears streaming down his face
Said if he could have known this
It would have never taken place.

For at the Battle of Horseshoe
With five hundred warriors, his best
Helped Andrew Jackson win that battle
And lay thirty three braves to rest.

And the chief drove his tomahawk
Through a creek warrior's head
Who was about to kill Jackson
But whose life was saved instead.

Chief John Ross knew this story
And once sent Junalaska to plead
Thinking Jackson would listen to
This Chief who did that deed.

But Jackson was cold, indifferent
To the one he owed his life to
Said:  "The Cherokee's fate is sealed
There's nothing I can do."

Washington D.C. had decreed
They must be moved westward
And all their pleas and protests
To this day still go unheard.

On November the seventeenth
Old Man Winter reared his head
And freezing cold sleet and snow
Littered that trail with the dead.

On one night, at least twenty-two
Were released from their torment
To join that great Spirit in the Sky
Where all good souls are sent.

Many humane, heroic stories
Were written 'long the way
A monument for one of them
Still stands until this day.

It seems one noble woman
It was Chief Ross's wife
Gave her blanket to a sick child
And in so doing, gave her life.

She is buried in an unmarked grave
Dug shallow near the "Trail"
Just one more tragic ending
In this tragic, shameful tale.

Mother Nature showed no mercy
Till they reached the end of the line
When that fateful journey ended
On March 26, 1839.

Each mile of this infamous "Trail"
Marks the graves of four who died
Four thousand poor souls in all
Marks the shame we try to hide.

You still can hear them crying
Along "The Trail of Tears"
If you listen with your heart
And not just with your ears.

Del "Abe" Jones

Monday 16 June 2014

I'm Done! I'm Done! I'm Done!

At 5:06 pm today I pressed the SEND button on my computer.  My manuscript is complete!!!  But that was only after I checked off my edit "to do" list.  Firstly, I found four people to proofread the manuscript, two authors and two family members.  Then I went into editing overdrive.  I crossed every t, I dotted every i.  I corrected every type o.  I cut big paragraphs into two or three little ones.  I added a couple of chapters.  I took a chapter away.  I added British accents.  I took British accents away.  I changed a chapter title.  I shared more of the protagonist's thoughts.  I took away any thoughts coming from characters other than the protagonist.  I added more setting.  I checked and double-checked historical facts.  I looked up definitions of words like "plimsolle" (a canvas shoe with a rubber sole) and "humbug" (a type of hard candy with stripes). I eliminated words that did not fit into the late Victorian/early Edwardian period.

I gave myself a Canadian geography lesson circa 1903 and found out that "Ungava" and "Keewatin" were territories.  I discovered that telephone operators had stressful jobs:  their job description included everything from connecting a long distance call to giving out weather reports and election results.  I learned that the British term Cockney, referring to a Londoner living within hearing distance of the Bow Bells, comes from the words "cock" and "neigh", the latter being the sound that it makes.  I discovered that my great-great grandparents' street in Bracebridge, was named after a Temperance preaching newspaper owner named Thomas McMurray.  I learned that people didn't have curling irons back in 1949; they used curlers or rags instead. What an amazing experience it has been!  I'd like to do it all over again!

Sunday 15 June 2014

Great Smoky Mountains

It was on this day in 1934 that a portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains was declared The Great Smoky Mountains Park.. Many people have lived in its peaks:  the Cherokee Indians were the first to settle there; homesteaders, loggers and miners moved in by the 18th Century; today it is home to backpackers, sightseers and fly fishermen.  

The smoky Mountains are part of the Blue Ridge mountains which are part of the Appalachians.  The Smoky Mountains, famous for the fog which settles over their peaks, are filled with deciduous, temperate trees along with evergreen trees like the Douglas fir.  Sightseers can snap photos of its many species of birds.  Fly fishermen can fish in its rivers.  And campers might notice one of the 1500 black bears that inhabit the area. Its lowest peak is 876 feet at the mouth of Abrams Creek; its highest peak is 6643 feet at the summit of Clingman's Dome.  

The Cherokee climbed the Smoky Mountain peaks until 1830 when Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, driving the natives out of the area to areas west of the Mississippi, especially Oklahoma Territory.  Many Cherokee left but one renegade warrior remained hidden in the Smoky Mountains.The little Red River Railroad was built to haul lumber out of the mountains, attracting loggers to the area.  Miners and homesteaders also arrived.  

President Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to visit the Smoky Mountains.  Congress authorized the idea of a park as early as 1926.  However, the funding was not yet in place.  Early travel writer Horace Kephart and photographer George Masa helped foster its development.  John D. Rockefeller offered five million dollars towards the project.  The US government offered another two million dollars.  

Work began on the project during the Great Depression.  The Works Project Administration created jobs for the unemployed to build trails and fire watchtowers.  The park officially opened in 1934.  It was not officially dedicated until 1940, by another Roosevelt.  Today, the park receives over 9 million visitors per year.

Saturday 14 June 2014

Focus on the Deck of Cards

Today I attended Karen Stiller's Continuing Class "Non Fiction Basics".  It was a real treat!  First of all, she gave us cookies -- I knew I'd picked the right class.  She drew a comparison between baking a tasty cookie using just the right ingredients and composing an excellent article, using just the right "ingredients".  By the way, the ginger sparklers were tasty.

Karen gave us each a black and white photograph.  More freebies!  The picture showed a deck of cards sitting on a table in the kitchen of a cottage.  While everything in the background was a bit blurry, the deck of cards was crystal clear.  When Karen took the photo, her point was to show the class that when we write an article, we need to focus on a specific angle, just as her photo focuses on the deck of cards.  When we brainstorm, we should think of ideas.  An idea is something like, a story on poverty in inner city Canada.  But the idea needs to be narrowed down to an angle.  The angle is how Jane and Finch in Toronto is stopping poverty in its tracks through art programs.

How do you choose a topic?  Most people say "Write what you know".  However, Karen says "Write what you don't know".  By that she means, pick a topic that you don't know much about.  And then find the experts on that subject and interview them.  With enough research, a unfamiliar topic becomes much more familiar.  Plus, as Karen suggested, when you write the article you can come at it from "the ignorance angle". You become the reader's stand in.  

Karen gave us a booklet full of magazine articles like "Farley Mowat, Last of a Tribe", a piece about the author who had just passed away,  and "The Real Cowboys of Pincher Creek", a piece about a rodeo in southern Alberta and "Childhood's End", the 2000's  answer to Benjamin Spock.  We were asked to do an "article autopsy" on each of them to determine what made them solid examples of journalism.

Karen said that if we were to remember one thing about her class it was that any good journalist needs an outline.  They don't just sit down and free write.  They interview and network.  They research both at the library and on the Internet.  And when they have more than enough information, they sit down at their desk, lay all of their information before them and start to organize it.  Finally, it's time to write.

Karen compared a well written article to a "beautiful symphony".  When all the instruments come together in a well organized manner, magic happens.  So too with a magazine or newspaper article.  So whether you're Mozart composing his symphony or Karen baking her cookies, aim for perfection.  The result will amaze your readers.

Friday 13 June 2014

It's a Long Haul, Not a Quick Trip

Today at Write! Canada I took Sherry's Stahl's Continuing Class "Marketing Your Book for Optimum Exposure".  I was glad I did.  Sherry had lots of handouts. She was full of energy.   She was so positive!

Sherry told us about the pros and cons of royalty publishing versus self-publishing.  While royalty published books sell on average 2000 copies, self-published books sell only 250.  While royalty publishers allow very little control, self-publisher companies give you more autonomy.  While royalty covers tend to look professional, self-published covers look more amateurish.  While royalty publishers only give the author a small portion of the book profits, self published authors retain a large portion of the profits.

Sherry moved on to branding.  She reminded us that all of our advertising should look the same:  our logo, letterhead, website, promotional products, business cards, posters and taglines.  Any author worth his or her salt should dress professionally when doing book signings.  She said that book signings are not just a way to sell books, but to make the bookstore staff aware of your book.  Later, when a customer pays a visit, the staff will be able to point it out to him or her.

Authors cannot underestimate the importance of an online presence.  Whether it's Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or Youtube, they should get our name and our book out there.

There are many other ways to raise awareness about your book.  Authors have the option of developping their own team of readers to post reviews on their book.  Sherry recommended Randy Elrod's "How to Write a Book Review" as a good benchmark for prospective reviewers.

Sherry showed us her marketing packet, a binder full of information about her book.  Authors can send out marketing packets to various groups like churches and retailers. They can promote their book in magazines and newspapers, on TV or radio.

Authors can also attend speaking engagements about their book.  Sherry said that authors at the very least, should request gas money and an honorarium for such events.  As authors become known, they can request a set fee.  And, for successful speakers, that fee gradually increases.

Listening to Sherry was inspirational.  The hard copy of her book, a Christian devotional, only came just over a year ago.  At her third book signing, she met Jayne Self, the director of Write! Canada.  Jayne asked her to present a continuing class at the conference and Sherry readily agreed.  In the meantime, she has sold 700 copies of her book, Water in the Desert, already exceeding the average for a self published author.  And she's not done yet.  She's just revving the engine.  As she says:  "It's a long haul, not a quick trip."  So, when you plan your first book launch, you'd better bring your Winnebago.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Speak to These Dry Bones

It's that time of year again -- Write! Canada.  Today I was back in Guelph for the Christian Writer's Conference.  After dinner, we trickled out of the dining hall and headed to the chapel.  Our keynote speaker was Mark Buchanan.  Mark drew us in with this story:  a young girl struggled in school.  The teachers thought she was sick (these were the years before the term ADHD).  Her mother took her to the doctor. The girl waited in another room.  When the mother and the doctor emerged, the girl was dancing beautifully to music.  The doctor said:  "She's not sick, she's a dancer."  The young girl trained as a dancer.  

Years later she met Andrew Lloyd Webber.  She choreographed a little production called "Cats".  And the rest is history.  The young girl was not sick, she was a dancer.  

Mark turned to us and said:  "You're not sick, you're a writer."  He went on to say that people who are possessed by the Holy Spirit sometimes look drunk.  But they aren't drunk, they're full of the Holy Spirit.  He said that just as the more alcohol we drink, the more it slows down all of our senses:  sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell.  Eventually, with too much alcohol, the lights go out in our head.  However, the more we fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit, the more heightened our senses, and the more the lights go on.  

"Speak to these dry bones" God tells Ezekiel.  We need to let the Holy Spirit breathe life into us, to make us new. Our five senses will enhance our creativity.  We need to be attentive listeners (Give me ears to hear, Jesus).  We need to be vigilant watchers (Fix our eyes on Jesus).  We need to inhale deeply (The breath of God is in my nostrils).  We need to be discriminate tasters (Oh taste and see that the Lord is good).  We need to be aware of the power of touch (Behold, this has touched your lips and your iniquity is taken away). We need to look to the Greatest Creator of all for our inspiration.  

Wednesday 11 June 2014

A Diligent Worker

There's a young man who comes to our gym every morning.  He dresses in blue jeans and a sweatshirt. Recently he's been wearing t-shirts.  When he arrives he takes a Fit for Less t-shirt out of his back pack and puts it on.  Then he gets to work.  First he takes a dry mop and mops the carpet where people stretch and jump rope.  Then he takes a pink duster and makes his way around the perimeter of the gym, dusting each machine thoroughly.  Back at the carpet area, he takes a wet cloth and wipes off the six massage black massage chairs which show every speck of dust.  When he is finished his work, he sometimes gets on the stair machine or the elliptical and exercises for a few minutes.

A couple of months ago, I wondered who this young man was so I approached him.  He's a co-op student working for Fit For Less.  I noticed that not many people if any talked to him so I made a point of greeting him each morning and telling him that he's doing a good job.  I found out that he's an athlete.  He likes to wrestle and he wins most of his matches.  I found out that he has a brother and a sister.  I found out that he lost his father when he was fairly young.  Oh, and there's one thing that I also found out.  He goes to W. Ross McDonald School.  He's legally blind.

Today was our co-op student's last day.  I will miss him.  May God bless you, Justin!

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Equal Pay Act

"I am grateful to those Members of Congress who worked so diligently to guide the Equal Pay Act through.  It is a first step.  It affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelopes." (John F. Kennedy, June 10, 1963.)

They crammed into the Oval Office, two dozen strong, crowding around President Kennedy's desk.  They wore printed dresses and tailored suits, white gloves and fancy hats, holding purses on their arms.  It looked like a meeting of Aunt Bee's social club from the TV program "The Andy Griffith Show".  But these women weren't from the kitchens of Mayberry, North Carolina.  They were from the labour force.  Among them were Representative Florence Price Dwyer of New Jersey, Esther Peterson, the Director of the Young Women's Christian Association (YMCA), Senator Mauriene Neuberger of Oregon and Margaret Mealey, the head of the Women's Department of the United Auto Workers (UAW).  

They were there to witness the President's signing of the Equal Pay Act.  Back in 1963, one third of the American work force was female.  Twenty five million women worked in the United States.  Yet the average woman earned only 60% of the average man.  Women faced another dilemma that their male counterparts did not:  what to do with their children while they were at work.  One fifth of the women labourers had children under 3 years old at home.  Two-fifths had school age children.  Of the remaining two-fifths, many were married to men who made less than $5000 a year.  Women were thrilled to see the signing of the act, which was a "first step" towards resolving the injustice.  

It would take another generation or two before the situation was truly resolved.  I remember when I attended university in the latter half of the 1980's, the female professors were still paid less than the male ones. According to a study done by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, that gap still exists.  In 1986, the gap between male and female professors' salaries was about $10,000.  Ten years later, the gap had increased to about $13,000.  And in 2006, the gap was back at $10,000.  While the increase in salary has been more dramatic for female professors than for male in recent years, the male professors still earn more money.  

I wonder how much Aunt Bee earned in the kitchen in Mayberry?

Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 being signed into law by President John F. Kennedy.

Monday 9 June 2014

The Editing Process

Now that my chapter book is complete, I have been editing it for the past week.  While I enjoy the research and writing process, I also enjoy the editing process.  I take delight in finding "le mot juste", a French expression which means "the appropriate word".  I enjoy double checking historical facts.  I tend to write in the passive voice.  Editing gives me the chance to turn passive verbs into active ones.  I look for opportunities to use the five senses to bring the reader into the scene.  Apparently smell, more than any other sense, jogs the memory.  I add dialogue to move the story forward or to show conflict.  I make sure that characters with accents sound consistent.  I double check each chapter to see if the central theme is evident. I make sure that I stay true to my point of view (in this case, the main character's).  I re-organize the paragraphs, often cutting one big paragraph into two smaller ones.  I look at sentence length, making sure I've included both long, medium and short ones.  Finally, with a sigh, I save my work and submit my document.  Happy Editing!

Sunday 8 June 2014

Our Youth Praise Team

Tonight we attended the evening worship service at our church.  Thomas was playing with the youth praise team.  They have been together for a year and a half and they get better each month!  The piano playing is smooth.  The drum playing is strong and powerful.  The acoustic guitar is solid.  The singers are soulful.  And the electric guitarist, who had a couple of solos, is out of this world!  LOL.  

Out of all our praise teams, I believe the Youth one is the best.  I'm biased, of course.  But I wasn't the only one who complimented them tonight.  I heard at least three or four other people praising them as well. People lingered after the service to hear their last song which was followed by a small applause (not something you usually hear in the Christian Reformed Church).  The team's performance is getting better and better.  And they truly seem to be enjoying it (if Thomas' head bopping is any indication). In a day and age where so few youth attend church, it is heartwarming to see the youth leading the worship. It is heartwarming to see them using their God given talents to worship Him.  Thank you, Youth Praise Team!

Saturday 7 June 2014

Stolen Child, Making Bombs for Hitler & Underground Soldier

It happens every night.  I climb up onto Jacqueline's bed, between her giant stuffies, and read to her.  Often I read a picture book, my favourite genre.  But I have also read her chapter books like The Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables.

Right now we are in the middle of another series, this one by Brantford author Marsha Skrypuch.  The first book, Stolen Child, was published in 2010.  The main character Nadia emigrates from Germany to Canada. As she settles into her new home, she struggles with flashbacks in which her name was "Gretchen".  Bit by bit, it comes out that Nadia is really Larissa, a Ukrainian girl.  One day, she was kidnapped by the Nazis and given to a German family to "adopt", part of the Nazi's Lebensborn program.  Somehow, with the help of a young woman and her husband, she was able to escape and immigrate to Canada.

Book number two is called "Making Bombs for Hitler" (2012).  It focuses on Larissa's sister, Lida, also kidnapped by the Nazis, who ends up in a concentration camp.  At first she is employed in the laundry room where she uses her sewing skills.  But later she is moved to a factory where she builds bombs.  With rumors of the Allies turning the tide of the war, the young workers start to sabotage the bombs.  Life is dangerous for the prison mates who dodge American bombs as they work.  Finally, Lida's work camp is liberated and she starts to search for her sister.

Book number three is called "Underground Soldier" (2014).  It focuses on Luka, who works as an Ostarbeiter (slave labourer) in Eastern Europe along with Lida. Desperate to escape the labour camp, Luka hides in a truck under a pile of dead bodies and escapes.  He joins the Ukrainian resistance which is caught between advancing Nazis in the west and Soviets in the east. At war's end, Luka must decide whether to follow Lida to Canada or stay and find his lost mother.

Friday 6 June 2014

D-Day Facts & Figures

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-day, here are some facts and figures:

1.  Americans had 70,000 soldiers and airmen participate in the battles at Omaha & Utah Beaches.
     The British had 61,000 soldiers and airmen participate in the battles at Gold & Sword Beaches.
     The Canadians had 21,000 soldiers and airmen participate in the battle at Juno Beach.

2.  The total number of naval combat ships was 1213.

3.  Robert Capa and Charles Turner were two of the war photographers present on the Normandy beaches on Jnne 6, 1944.

4.  The location of the D-Day landing was a heavily guarded secret until the last minute.  Catching the Germans off guard was essential given that they had 55 divisions in France at the time.  The Allies had only eight divisions.

5.  About 17 million maps supported the mission.  Training maps used fake names.

6.  The United States shipped 7 million tons of supplies including 448,000 tons of ammunition.

7.  There are 9,386 graves in the American cemetery at Colville-sur-Mer.  Each grave faces west towards the United States.  The British suffered 4868 fatalities, all buried at Bayeux Cemetery.  There were 946 Canadian casualties on the Normandy beaches.

8.  If not for the discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, the death toll would have been much higher.

9.  By July 4, one million men had been landed on the Normandy beaches.

10.  D-Day was postponed by a day due to bad weather.

Thursday 5 June 2014

How to Collect Airmiles

I would love to go to the Maritimes with my family.  But travelling is expensive, especially within Canada.  I once heard about a Canadian businessman who noticed that every time he flew somewhere within the country, the plane was half full.  So, he, and his fellow passengers, were paying for the empty seats with their overpriced tickets.

So, I am on a mission to collect Airmiles.  I have an Airmiles Mastercard.  That's a good start.  Each month I collect at least 100 Airmiles by using it.  I collect a mile here and there by going to certain stores like Staples or The Children's Place.  If I get gas at Shell, I collect a few more miles.  Lately, I have been shopping at Metro.  On an average trip, I'll get 40 or 50 Airmiles.  But if I'm really lucky, it's a day where they're offering 100 Airmiles for every $100 spent.

This week I hit 6000 Airmiles -- enough to fly to the Maritimes.  I was thrilled!  But I phone the toll free number and found out that I'm still short.  To fly to Halifax costs 7800 for four people (three adults and one child -- Thomas counts as an adult).  The lady on the phone said that I could purchase 3 tickets with Airmiles and pay cash for the fourth.  But the fourth ticket would cost $660!  Plus I would have to pay taxes on the 3 "free" tickets to the tune of $215 each!  I figured out that I could save $450 by waiting and collecting enough for that final ticket.

So, if you see me stalking people at Metro, asking if I can have their Airmiles, you'll know why.  If you see me in the LCBO, even thought I don't drink, you'll know it's to get someone else's Airmiles.  I'm determined to reach 7800  -- no matter what it takes!

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Wednesday 4 June 2014

Eggs Benedict


8 eggs, cold
4 English muffins, split & toasted
8 slices Canadian bacon, warmed
1/4 cup Hollandaise sauce


Heat two or three inches of water in large saucepan.  Adjust heat to keep liquid simmering.  Break eggs one at a time into custard cup.  Hold dish close to surface and slip eggs into water.  Cook eggs until whites completely set and yolks thickened (3 - 5 minutes).  Do not stir.  Lift eggs from water with slotted spoon.
Drain well.  Top each muffin with one bacon slice, one egg and 1 1/2 tbsp Hollandaise sauce.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Only God Can Make a Tree

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;  

Upon whose bosom snow has lain
Who intimately lives with rain;

Poems are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer

Monday 2 June 2014

Grilled Pork Chops with Fresh Nectarine Salsa



2 nectarines, pitted & diced
1 ripe tomato, seeded & diced
1/4 cup diced onion
2 tbsp chopped, fresh cilantro
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili pepper
salt & ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
8 boneless pork loin chops


1.  Preheat outdoor grill to medium-high heat.  Lightly oil grate and set four inches from heat.

2.  To make salsa, place nectarines, tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice and red pepper flakes in a bowl; toss to blend.  Season to taste with salt.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to blend flavours.

3.  Stir cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.  Place olive oil in small bowl.  Brush pork chops with oil and season both sides with cumin mixture.

4.  Place pork loin chops on preheated grill.  Cook until lightly brown and juices run clear, about 4 minutes on each side.  Place pork chops on serving plates and top with generous spoonful of salsa.

Sunday 1 June 2014

A Boy and His Dad on a Fishing Trip

A boy and his dad on a fishing trip --
There is a glorious fellowship!
Father and son and the open sky
And the white clouds lazily drifting by,
And the laughing stream as it runs along,
With the clicking reel like a martial song,
And the father teaching the youngster gay
How to land a fish in the sportsman's way.

I fancy I hear them talking there
In an open boat, and the speech is fair,
And the boy is learning the ways of men
From the finest man in his youthful ken.
Kings, to the youngster, cannot compare
With the gentle father who's with him there.
And the greatest mind of the human race
Not for one minute could take his place.

Which is happier, man or boy?
The soul of the father is steeped in joy,
For he's finding out, to his heart's delight
That his son is fit for the future fight.
He is learning the glorious depths of him,
And the thoughts he thinks and his every whim;
And he shall discover when night comes on
How close he has grown to his little son.

A boy and his dad on a fishing trip --
Builders of life's companionship!
Oh, I envy them, as I see them there
Under the sky in the open air,
For out of the old, old long ago
Come the summer days that I used to know,
When I learned life's truths from my father's lips
As I shared the joy of his fishing trips.

Edgar Guest