Wednesday, December 24, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

          "The true meaning of Christmas" is a phrase that has been used since the middle of the 19th century. It's often given vaguely religious overtones suggesting that the "true meaning of Christmas" is a celebration of the Nativity of Christ but, in pop culture, usage of overt religious references are mostly avoided and the "true meaning" is taken to be a sort of introspective and benevolent attitude as opposed to the commercialization of Christmas.
            The tradition of modern gift exchanging was popularized after the publication of the poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" in 1822 by American Clement C. Moore and is considered to be largely responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today. Prior to the poem, Christian ideas about St. Nicholas and other  Christmastide visitors varied considerably.
            It wasn't long after the poem's publication that people started to question the "true meaning of Christmas" as in Charles Dicken's classic tale," A Christmas Carol" (1843) and Harriet Beecher Stowe's story "Christmas; or, the Good Fairy".
            The topic hit its stride through film and television with shows like "A Charlie Brown Christmas", which first aired in 1965 and the 1966 animated TV special "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".  The phrase and the associated morale became used as the theme in numerous Christmas films since the 1960s.
            This Christmas season we've sat down and watched a number of these "True Meaning” classics and enjoyed them all over again. "It's A Wonderful Life", "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" (the Jim Carrey film version, of course), "Scrooged" with Bill Murray and many more. It also helps to have grandchildren to share these stories with while we revisit the shows that we have been watching for years.
            We even got to watch a live version played out for us by the elementary school children of Dr. Isman Elementary School in Wolseley. Our five-year-old grandson, Treyton, is in the kindergarten class and he, his classmates and the entire K-to-grade-6 student body performed songs and acted out a musical skit with the "True Meaning" theme. It was great! The performance ended with the play's Santa Claus character stating that gift giving isn't always Commercialism and can be very rewarding in itself and only lusting after gifts for one's self is not in keeping with the "True Meaning" of Christmas.
            Our family is excited to share another Christmas season together and celebrate the birth of Christ with all of our traditions in place whether it be the gift opening on Christmas morning or the turkey dinner or the games or the odd eggnog or two but we won't be debating the "True Meaning" of Christmas around our house as we will be living it.
            From our family to yours have a very, very Merry Christmas!!


"to give up one's very self — to think only of others — how to bring the greatest happiness to others — that is the true meaning of Christmas"  The American magazine, vol. 28 (1889):

Saturday, December 20, 2014

LOVE THAT CHRISTMAS MUSIC!


            I'm not sure if it was because of the Baby Boomer radio/television era that I grew up in or Dad, Mom and their children's involvement in the United Church or just the way things generally were back in the day while I was growing up but around this time of year we listened to Christmas music. A lot of Christmas music. I loved it. Still do. It wells up a magical time of  the year for me.

            Apparently, not everybody feels this way as I have heard, more than once, that some folks would just prefer a few songs on Christmas day or none at all. Maybe if they didn't start playing Christmas music on November 1st we wouldn't be sick of it by the 1st of December. Just a thought.

            I'm a very nostalgic person anyway so I cannot understand how people can say that they just don't like Christmas music. Do they not like any of it? Or just some of it? Were they not exposed to it while they were growing up or were they overexposed perhaps? Maybe they just don't like the Irish Rovers' "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer"? I've got mixed feelings on that one, too, but how can you not like "Silent Night"? Or "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."? Depending on the rendition, of course.

            Music was an early feature of the Christmas season and its celebrations. The earliest chants, litanies and hymns were Latin works intended for use during church liturgy, rather than popular songs. The 13th century saw the rise of the "carol" written in the vernacular.

            In the Middle Ages, the English combined circle dances with singing and called them carols. Later, the word carol came to mean a song in which a religious topic is treated in a style that is familiar or festive.

            Many of these carols hearken from centuries ago, the oldest (Wexford Carol) originating in the 12th century. The newest came together in the mid-to-late-19th century. Many began in non-English speaking countries, often with non-Christmas themes and were later converted into English carols with English lyrics added. Christmas carols in English first appeared in 1426 and music itself soon became one of the greatest tributes to Christmas.

            Many of the traditional Christmas carols such as "Away in a Manger", "O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Holy Night", to name just a few, were written and popularized in the 19th Century. Secular tunes such as "Jingle Bells", "Jolly Old Saint Nicholas" and "Up on the House Top" were also popularized in the 19th Century.

            More recently popular Christmas songs, often Christmas songs introduced in theater, television, film, or other entertainment media, tend to be specifically about Christmas or have a wintertime theme. They are typically not overtly religious. The most popular set of these titles—heard over airwaves, on the Internet, in shopping centres, elevators and even on the street during the Christmas season—have been composed and performed from the 1930s onward. Name a pop star from Frank Sinatra in the 40's to Bono in the 2000's and they've recorded a Christmas song. Some to great success...some...not so much.

            According to a recent survey there are a lot more people who like to listen to Christmas music than those who don't so whether you are a big, big fan, like me, or an old pooh-poohing bah-humbugger, music and Christmas will indelibly be linked.

"One thing I love about Christmas music is that it has a tradition of warmth."- Zooey Deschanel (1980-).

Monday, December 15, 2014

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS?


            I’m pretty sure that my brother Gord and I were in grade 10 and 11 or 11 and 12, somewhere in there, when we were first assigned the Christmas lights duty on the United Church Manse house in Kipling back in the 70’s when our family was living there. The task was kind of sprung on us one day when we got home from our regular post-schoolday hang out at the old Hub Cafe.

            Dad usually saved these kinds of tasks for himself. Sure, he'd allow us to cut the grass, shovel the snow off of the sidewalks and driveway and distribute the cow caca a couple of times a year on the garden but the finicky stuff he liked to do himself 'cause he was a little anal about it, you know? He could be awful particular about certain things. Just like the car washing...he'd "allow" you to do it but if it didn't cut the mustard...his mustard, that is, you'd be heading right back to the carwash.

            My guess is that it got pretty darn cold pretty early that year and he didn't want to go up on the roof and mess with the lights himself or he was just giving us one of his "character building" lessons like the times when he made us help with the chicken butchering or go with him when he was helping someone castrating calves, or some damn thing...you know, the kind of tasks that would make us real men...blah, blah, blah.

            Anyway, I was none too excited about climbing up on the roof and attaching the Christmas lights to the eaves. I sniveled and I whined and I stomped around while Gordie just went about the task of untangling the lights and cords while telling me, "You know, if you'd stop complaining and get at it we'd be done before you know it. Bitching about it won't make it go away." So then I started complaining about him complaining about my complaining and I huffed and I puffed and I...climbed the ladder. I always hated it when he was right. And he usually was.     We froze our hands and our feet and our faces and we had to redo a few spots but we managed to fit in a bit of fun, too, as we usually did and before you know it we had the lights hung up and a hot chocolate in our hands. Yup, lights were hung and character was built.

            It's funny, Dad pointed out, that you don't say a whole lot about your frozen fingers and your frozen toes and your frozen face after an afternoon of road hockey or tobogganing or shinny at the rink, do you now? Because it's "volunteer" freezing that's why! It's different! It even feels different!

            The next year we came home around the same time from the same place and there was a whack of lights lying on the patio again and a ladder leaning on the eaves. Just like the forks sticking out of the manure pile on the garden in the fall we knew what had to be done and who was going to do it without having to be told. Last year's light hanging had been a learning experience and a character builder but the second time around was just plain torture.

            Fast forward forty odd years later and I'm stomping around our house now and whining about getting up on the ladder and hanging the stupid lights and I'm going, "Why can't we be green this year? You know, save the planet and everything and not spin the power meter off of the wall and go old school and burn a candle or two in the window or something because it's pretty damn cold out there today and I'm going to freeze my fingers and my toes and my face and I think I'm catching a cold already and what if I fall off the ladder...I know, I know...if we just stick to task we'd be done before you know it and we'll have a cup of hot chocolate in our hands...blah, blah, blah."

"My core belief is that if you're complaining about something for more than three minutes, two minutes ago you should have done something about it!" Caitlin Moran (1975-).

Monday, December 8, 2014

MY MAPLE LEAFS EXPERIENCE THE 23 PHENOMENON

          Last week, while preparing for our home office makeover, Deb and I were cleaning and emptying out the room. We were getting the room drywalled and painted so it was as good a time as any to purge the place while we were at it. There were bookshelves and file folders and the usual accumulation of paperwork that we had to go through. We did our best to stick to task and not get carried away looking through all of the family history reminders but it wasn't hard for me to get distracted as I sifted through the family treasures. Some of it junk some of it priceless.
            One of the items I came across was an album that our youngest daughter Emily had given me a few Christmases ago. She had printed a bunch of my old Random Thoughts articles on some fancy printing paper using an old style writing font and placed them in the leather-bound book for me. Such a nice gift.
            Anyway, I flipped the album open and the first article I came across was Random Thoughts-8 from March of 2007. The subject matter of the column was about the 23 Enigma. The 23 Enigma refers to the belief that most incidents and events are directly connected to the number 23. Some examples of this include: there are 23 chromosomes in a child's DNA; blood takes 23 seconds to make a round trip through the human body; the Earth's axis is on a tilt of 23.5 degrees; Psalms, the longest book of the Bible, is the 23rd  book of the Old Testament and the famous Divine Shepherd psalm is the 23rd Psalm. The list goes on and on. Look it up. It is very interesting.
            Wikipedia says that ,"Numerology is any belief in divine, mystical or other special relationship between a number and some coinciding event. Today, numerology is often associated with the paranormal, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts." Many people fully believe in numerology and the mysticism behind it while others are completely skeptical arguing that numbers have no occult significance and cannot by themselves influence a person's life.
            Now, I don't care whether you fully believe that the number 23 is indeed an enigma or you feel that it's all complete bunk but there were events that occurred at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on the night of Saturday November 30th that thoroughly defy the odds and should make a believer out of the biggest skeptic. And it does involve the number 23. Significantly.
            That evening's event was a National Hockey League game being played between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the visiting Washington Capitals. The game was an important early season tilt between the conference rivals who were a point apart in the standings and will most likely be battling for a playoff spot throughout the season.
            Besides the importance of the game in the standings the Maple Leafs were doing a pre-game tribute to former player and popular coach, Pat Quinn, who had recently passed away from pancreatic cancer. Quinn grew up a Leafs fan and entered the NHL in 1968 as a Maple Leaf and returned to coach them for seven seasons leading them to the playoffs in six of those seven years. Needless to say, it was a very emotional night for anyone attending or watching the game at home.
            Now, here comes the eerie part...John Brian Patrick Quinn passed away on November 23rd 2014, his jersey number as a Maple Leaf player was number 23, the Maple Leafs' current coach, Randy Carlyle, also wore jersey number 23 during his playing days with Toronto in the 70's, it was the Leafs' 23rd game of the season, they scored a goal with 23 seconds remaining in the first period, 23 seconds into the second period and they also scored exactly 23 seconds after Washington scored their first goal and they finished the game with 23 shots on goal in their 6-2 win. Hmmmm...believe it or not!

"Some things are too strange and strong to be coincidences"-Emery Allen.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

DO YOU BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING?

           The other day an acquaintance of mine started up a conversation with me regarding the instant winter that Saskatchewan residents have been subjected to in the last couple of weeks. Our comments were of the usual variety about how the sharp drop in temperatures and the incessant high winds gave a January feel to the last days of November as we moaned and groaned about the start of what will surely be another long, long nasty winter. Although, to me, even a nice, mild, beautiful winter season will still be classified as nasty and too long, but I digress.
            We continued on and I said something about “so much for Global Warming, haw, haw”. To which his response was, “Pfttt, I don’t believe in Global Warming” anyway.” So, I’m like, “Really? You don’t think 7 billion humans and all of the by-products and processes required to sustain 7 billion humans on the planet isn’t causing some kind of adverse effects?” I was thinking that surely “Common Sense” will tell you that something’s going on but, then again, if “Common Sense” were so common everybody’d have it, don’t you think? Anyway, he said that of course there would be some kind of adverse effects but Global Warming isn’t one of them. According to him there’s just not enough evidence.
            So, I listened to his arguments with his list of “experts” and I nodded and smiled because I knew that it would be a complete waste of my time to argue with him about it. And him with me. Our minds were made up. Him on one side…me on the other.
He, of course, took my smiling and nodding to be condescension from a “left-leaning-wing-nut-holier-than-thou-tree-hugger”. I, on the other hand, took him to be a “right-wing-conspiracy-theorist-big-oil-loving-extremist”. And so, the lines were drawn.
            Call me what you will and I do refute some of the “left-leaning-wing-nut-holier-than-thou-tree-hugger” stuff…I’m not a nut…but I don’t think showing concern for the only planet human beings can currently live on as being alarmist or unrealistic. In fact, I think it’s the other way around. If humans are damaging the planet at the rate 97% of the climate scientists working directly in the field think it is then I think the human race is obligated to pay attention to the damage being done. Keep in mind human beings’ record for environmental responsibility being less than exemplar e.g. pollution of oceans, seas, rivers, air, soil…
            I had done a lot of researching and reading on the subject over time and I’m not afraid to tell you that some of his arguments got me rethinking my stance so I did some more researching and reading and that led me to a couple of conclusions. One: you could read about the subject of Global Warming and Climate Change for the rest of your life and still not cover all of the information written on the subject and Two: I’ll stick to my original conclusion…Global Warming is not a myth.
            But, hey, you don’t have to believe me. Find out for yourselves. I encourage it. Every resident of this planet should be as educated as they can be about the state of our environment. Take an honest look.
            My suggestion for a good start to your research would be to look online at:climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus.


“Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it’s common sense.” Ronald Reagan (1911-2004).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

THIS DAY IN HISTORY


           I really like history so there’s a “This Day in History” calendar hanging on the wall at my work station and another one hanging on the wall in our office at home. The calendar is made by an American publication associated with the History Channel so it’s understandably centered on Americans and American history but they do throw in the odd tidbit of  historical information like the opening of Vatican’s City’s Sistine Chapel to the public in 1512; November 1st, 1512 to be exact.

            Last week, on the morning of November 13th, as usual I checked out the calendar to see what had happened in history on that particular day and I was a little surprised to see that day’s big historical news was that it was the day in 1955 when Whoopi Goldberg was born in New York City. Whoopee for Whoopi.

            I’m a big fan of Whoopi’s, by the way, and she has won an Academy Award and everything and she has been a major celebrity for years and years but, seriously folks, in all of the recorded history from time immemorial the most celebrated event that can be attributed to the 13th of November was the birth of Whoopi Goldberg?

 According to my research, recorded history begins with accounts of the ancient world around 4000 BC which coincides with the invention of writing. This does not include historical narratives of oral history or mythological traditions which would take human history back more than a few centuries further. Regardless, there has to be over four thousand November the 13ths throughout history and Whoopi comes out on top.

Let’s have a quick look at some of the events that Whoopi has overshadowed, shall we? Now, keep in mind that I’m not blaming Whoopi or in any way saying she isn’t an important person but a little perspective never hurts, does it?

In 1553 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, and four others, including Lady Jane Grey are accused of high treason and sentenced to death under Queen “Bloody” Mary I. In 1775 during the American Revolutionary War the American forces under General Richard Montgomery capture Montreal. In 1956 the Supreme Court of the United States declares Alabama laws requiring segregated buses illegal, ending the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1974 Ronald DeFeo Jr. murders his entire family in Amityville, Long Island, in the house that would become known as The Amityville Horror. In 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C. after a march by thousands of Vietnam War veterans. These are but a few of the historical events that took place on the 13th of November.

Other notables sharing Whoopi’s birthday are King Edward III of England (1312), Dorothea Erxleben, (first female medical doctor-1715), Jiaqing, Emperor of China (1760), Robert Louis Stevenson (1850) and our own local celebrity actor Lloyd Warner(1963).

I am not so shocked that celebrities are trumping real history or news anymore. It seems to me that our infatuation with all things celebrity is escalating. There’s even a pop culture term for individuals who are “Famous for Being Famous”. Hello there Kim, Kloe, and Kourtney Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and anyone associated with the old Jersey Shore reality show.

I guess history will, once again, have to be the judge of the long-term effects on our society’s escalated pop-culture-celebrity-itis. Time will tell.

            “Celebrity doesn’t have anything to do with art or craft. It’s about being rich and thinking that you’re better than everybody else.”-Joseph Gordon-Levitt (1981-)

           

HELP ME


            Did you hear about the 18 year-old Alabama man who robbed four Subway sandwich shops in four days because he wanted his money back over the failed “Subway Diet”? His armed robbery skills and his excuse for carrying out the crimes just reek of stupid. I’m sorry. I don’t know the guy at all but, seriously, he might not qualify as the stupidest burglar of all time but he’s up there with the best of ‘em. Or is it the worst of them? Well, you know what I mean.

            If you’re new to the planet or just don’t watch television, or anything, the “Subway Diet” was a Subway fast food restaurant ad campaign that was marketed around university student Jared Fogle who had become obese, (62” waist size for his pants…yes, 62”), from his junk food addictions and decided to do something about it. So he switched to eating Subway’s sandwiches, which he must have felt was the healthiest choice of junk food, I guess, and he also reduced the portion sizes, eliminated the fattening condiments like mayonnaise and started walking a lot. The result was a huge loss of weight. Good for him.

            His college roommate wrote about Jared’s successful weight loss in the Indiana Daily Student News which then led to Jared’s story being included in a Men’s Health article called “Stupid Diets…that Work!” Jared soon became a long-time spokesperson for Subway restaurants and has kept his weight in check ever since.

            The Alabama robber should have read all of Subway’s literature on the “Subway Diet” because the diet comes with this disclaimer, “The Subway Diet, combined with a lot of walking, worked for Jared. We’re not saying this is for everyone. You should check with your doctor before starting any diet program. But it worked for Jared.”

            So, apparently, according to Zachary Terrance the 18 year-old man accused of the robberies, the first course of action after the Subway Diet let him down wasn’t to try to get a refund from the restaurant or maybe write to the Subway store or the corporate offices and complain or anything, his course of action was to grab a gun and demand his money back. At four different Subway locations. In four days. Without a mask on. In full view of the on-site cameras.

            After local police aired footage of the robberies and pictures of the culprit he was spotted at a local Wal Mart wearing the same bright orange running shoes that the robber wore and then the authorities were notified and Terrance was arrested while shopping for a holster for his gun. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Maybe he should have been shopping for other diet solutions or something. Just saying.

            Hopefully Zachary Terrance is young enough to get some help. He is obviously not the clearest of thinkers. I don’t know anything about the man but maybe he has mental health issues. If he can atone for his mistakes and get some sort of rehabilitation instead of sticking him in prison with the hardened criminals, making him a lifer no doubt, there’ll be hope for a better life for him and everyone else. He’s just lucky the gun didn’t go off during one of his capers. I’m sure the store’s clerks would agree.

            The above story may have been my long winded way of bringing up men’s mental health issues but as I am, once again, Movembering up, I thought this would be as good a time as any to shill my Movember website.

            Again, if you are unaware, Movember is a fundraising campaign to get men to grow their mustaches for the month of November in support of Men’s Health Issues like prostate and testicular cancer and men’s mental health problems. For more information or to donate to the cause you may visit my Movember website at: http://ca.movember.com/mospace/. Your assistance in raising awareness and addressing men’s health issues would be greatly appreciated.

“Unfortunately, we force people to break the law in order to get any kind of mental health treatment.” Pete Earley, Bestselling author and Mental Health Advocate, (1951-).

Sunday, November 2, 2014

IT'S ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE.


Is there ever a good time to receive bad news? It always seems to come when you least expect it, doesn’t it? Then again, who sits around expecting bad news? So when it does come it always seems like...really? Now? Did this have to happen right now?
Case in point: on October 22nd I was watching the news about the killing of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, while he was on ceremonial guard duty at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa, the aftermath of the attack, the killer’s death and the whole upheaval on Parliament Hill when my cell phone rang. It was our youngest daughter, Emily, calling from her newly banged up car minutes after she had had an accident on the William R. Bennett Bridge in Kelowna, B.C.
Obviously distraught and in a bit of shock from the suddenness of the event and the damage to her car it took a few moments to calm her down and get her to assess the damage, first of all to her physical well being, and then the damage to her car. Was she okay? Was anyone else hurt? How bad is the car? Is it drivable? How did it happen? The standard set of questions, you know?
What a completely helpless feeling knowing that your overwhelmed and hurt child is two provinces away and you can’t hold her or reassure her with anything other than your voice over the phone. Thankfully, she wasn’t severely hurt in the ordeal, but still.
I am in no way trying to compare a fender bender to the death of a child but during the conversation with Emily my thoughts went to the parents and family of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo who would have received much worse news that same day. What would it be like to get that call? I cannot even imagine nor do I ever want to find out but one thing such a tragic event will do is put things into perspective pretty quickly. As bad as things may seem at certain times in your life they can often be so much worse.
Events alter life. Immediately. One minute you’re cruising along and an instant later everything has changed. Canada changed that day.
It was just two short days after Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed when he and another officer were struck by a car in the parking lot of a federal building in Saint-Jean-sur-Richilieu, Que. They were deliberately targeted only because they were members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Two Canadian Armed Forces members killed in one week on Canadian soil. As stated…it changed Canada. More innocence lost.
The two horrible deaths sparked an outpouring of grief and outrage while inspiring a wave of Canadian pride and a renewed sense of unity across Canada. While the families, friends and comrades of the fallen soldiers may take some solace that the soldiers’ are now viewed as heroes and their deaths have not been in vain the fact remains that both men were taken far too early in their lives.
There was a “gut-wrenching” irony, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper so aptly stated, to the fact that Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. “He knew what he was protecting and he knew what he was preserving and he died protecting and preserving.”
There is never a good time for bad things to happen. At least that has been my experience in life. We are left to learn from tragedy, make the best of a bad situation and move forward with renewed hope that we have gained something from the experience.
It is not lost on me, either, that these events happened days before we are to gather together to honour the sacrifices of so many others who have served our country in the past. Remembrance Day is upon us and we shouldn’t have needed such a raw reminder that Canadians have much to be grateful for but every now and then it takes a nation’s tragedy to remind us of how fleeting life can be and how precious our way of life is and how worthy it is to protect. Lest We Forget.

“Perspective is everything when you are experiencing the challenges of life,”-Jodi Eareckson Tada (1949-).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

GOTTA LOVE SPORTS


I am going to give you, Dear Reader, fair warning that this week’s column is all about sports so if you’re not a sports fan and you’d rather be doing something else then go ahead… I won’t mind, I know it’s not everyone’s cup o’ tea.

            I actually cannot remember not watching or playing sports. Some of my earliest childhood memories revolve around the Hubbard family sitting in front of the TV eating popcorn while watching Hockey Night In Canada every Saturday night with Ward Cornell hosting and Foster Hewitt or Danny Gallivan doing the play-by-play.

            Baseball was a little different because, until 1971, all of the World Series games were played during the day so it was a little trickier trying to view those games. Between squinting to see the fuzzy black and white images in the bright middle-of-the-day sunshine and the fact that there was something called SCHOOL keeping me out of the house I had to be creative to see or hear the games. October was always a great time for earaches, or something, if you know what I mean? Wink, wink. If we were really, really, lucky and it wasn’t often that it happened, we’d get a teacher who was a baseball fan and they’d play a radio in the classroom while we did arithmetic or spelling or some other exhilarating task.

            There are a couple of times during the year, usually spring and fall, when so many sports are being played at the same time making it a sports lover’s dream and a home handyman’s nightmare.

            The CFL schedule is ramping up with the playoffs just around the corner and every game is crucially important and there are only four teams left in the hunt for the World Series Championship so every pitch, at bat and out are also crucially important. And to top it off the NHL season, which I will acknowledge could be a couple of months shorter, (I know…Canadian blasphemy), just kicked off its too long regular season schedule last night. Not to mention the National Football League season is on, too, and they’re still playing golf and tennis and soccer and …See what I mean?

            A few months ago at work the “powers that be” installed a couple of televisions in the lunchroom but the TV’s are tuned in to a live streaming news channel. Continuously. All of the time. News. Bad news. Depressing news. Numbingly depressing news. I’ve taken to sitting with my back to the TVs in an effort to abstain from watching them. You know how hard it is to keep your eyes off of a television set, don’t you? Anyway, not watching the news as much has helped me avoid visits to a mental health practitioner or going on Paxil or some other anti-depressant.

That’s another reason I choose to watch sports. It’s a diversion. I like to know what’s going on in the world but I don’t need to be saturated with the stuff.

Sports are a huge part of our world. They enhance economic growth, they are, as previously mentioned, a diversion from the ills of the world, they promote camaraderie and loyalty and confidence and health.

Studies have also shown that organized sport programs contribute to reducing youth crime and sports are used as a rehabilitation tool for offenders as there exists a widespread belief in the therapeutic value of sports.

I am not alone in this sports loving fanaticism. Look around you. It’s everywhere and zillions of people love it. Playing sports or watching sports, either one, or both. My advancing age may be slowing my playing days down a little but it sure isn’t interfering with my sports viewing.

Come to think of it, I think I’ll cook up a batch of popcorn, grab a cool beverage and find some game to watch right now. It’s not 1962 anymore so there’ll be plenty to choose from and all in high definition. Ahhhhhh the life.

“I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records people’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.”- Earl Warren (1891-1974).

 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

THANKSGIVING THOUGHTS

Everyday we’re inundated with world news headlines regarding the escalating fight against ISIS (the Sunni jihadist extremist group active in the Middle East), the Ebola virus outbreak, the Ukraine/Russia crisis, the scary spreading of the D68 enterovirus and, even scarier, the mass media’s relentless coverage of all things Rob and Doug Ford.


Come to think of it, I don’t know if I’m more scared of the news that’s being covered or the way the news is being covered; but that’s a story for another time.

As we head into another Thanksgiving weekend we are asked to sit and reflect on the many things that we can be thankful for. To me, we should do this pretty much every day but, when forced, many will have to do it at least once a year. And that time is now.

It should go without saying but looking at the above headlines I am very happy and thankful for this little piece of the planet where I live. No war, no famine, no Ebola…yet; ditto regarding the D68 enterovirus, but, for the most part, we’ve got it pretty good around here in spite of the poor harvest weather and some recent local criminal behaviour. I am thankful to be living in clean, comfortable and safe Kipling, Saskatchewan, Canada.

I am thankful that we are heading into one of the best times of the year to be a sports fan. I know, I know, you regular readers of this column are going to be getting bored with this stuff already but, c’mon…the Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing right now and the World Series is right around the corner, the puck is dropping on a brand new National Hockey League Season and my Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t lost a game, yet, or spun themselves out of a playoff birth, or anything, and the final crucial games are being played in the Canadian Football League with the ‘Riders in shaky shape, because of the loss of quarterback Darian Durant, but they are still in a solid playoff position as we speak. For this sports fan there is a lot to be thankful for.

I am thankful that we don’t have a foot of snow on the ground. I am thankful that Highway 48 was finally paved giving me a smooth ride all the way to work. I am thankful for the new integrated health facility and I am grateful for the many health care workers providing excellent care to area residents. I am thankful that my health is pretty darn good for an old feller, if I say so myself.

I am thankful that Saskatchewan isn’t threatened by earthquakes or tsunamis or hurricanes or volcanoes or brush fires or mud slides and that the worst natural disasters that we might see around these parts could be the occasional tornado or some spring flooding or maybe the odd drought.

I am grateful to be part of a large family, or families, as it were. I am happy to be a partner in a still-happy-thirty-three-year-old marriage. I am happy and thankful that we have three great kids, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law and four wonderful grandchildren.

As earlier stated, we shouldn’t have to wait until the Thanksgiving weekend to vocalize what we can be thankful for but if that’s what it takes then let’s all take a few moments during the upcoming holiday weekend to remind ourselves of some of the little, or big, things in our life that we can truly be thankful for.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”-William Arthur Ward (1921-1994).



Monday, September 29, 2014

THE AUTUMNAL EQUINOX IS HERE

This column is being written on the day of the September Equinox. In Saskatchewan, or more specifically…Regina, the precise time of the Autumnal Equinox is Monday, September 22 at 8:29 PM Central Standard Time. That is the exact time that “fall” begins.


I suppose that at some point in my life I was taught what the Autumnal Equinox really means, other than the fact that it’s the official end of summer and the start of autumn, but I can’t really recall all of the particulars so I looked it up and it’s kind of interesting. So get ready for a bit of a science lesson here.

“Equinox” literally means “equal night”, giving the impression that the night and day on the equinox are exactly the same length, but that’s not entirely true. It’s close but not exact. On this day in Regina the Sun rose at 6:45am and will set at 6:56pm giving us 12hours and 11 minutes of daylight. That’s about as close as we’ll get to an even split.

On any other day of the year, the Earth’s axis tilts a little away from or towards the Sun. But on the two equinoxes, the Earth’s axis tilts neither away from or towards the Sun. The equinoxes occur the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator-the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator. This happens in March and September every year.

Equinoxes are opposite on either side of the equator, so the autumnal (fall) equinox in the Northern Hemisphere is the spring (vernal) equinox in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa. Make sense? Hope so.

So, there you have it, the scientific explanation of when and why the spring and fall seasons officially change.

Mother Nature, on the other hand, doesn’t always comply with these equinox timetables to give us “seasonal” type weather, though. Sometimes, as her schizophrenic personality is wont to do, she will just as easily give us a snowstorm as a heat wave at this time of the year and I’ve seen my share of both. This year they are predicting a heat wave and I couldn’t be happier. Bring it on!

Equinox or no equinox there’s still a lot of stuff that needs to be done this fall. I don’t know about you but I didn’t get all of my summer fun in so I’m hoping for a nice long warm fall. There are still golf balls yet to be hit…numerous times, of course…the non-ending yard chores need to get done and I’d much prefer to do these types of activities while wearing short sleeves as opposed to toques and mitts. But time will tell.

As so many of “the glass is half empty” types were so anxious to point out back on June 22nd that “the days are getting shorter” it is no surprise that we will be losing more and more daylight as we move toward the inevitable December solstice. While we cannot change that fact, I, for one, will be doing my utmost to make the most of these dying daylight hours.

“Ho! For the leaves that eddy down, Crumpled yellow and withered brown, Hither and yonder and up the street And trampled under the passing feet; Swirling, billowing, drifting by, With a whisper soft and rustling sigh, Starting aloft to windy ways, Telling the coming of bonfire days.” Grace Strickler Dawson.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES!

What a difference a year can make. This time last year the farmer’s were trying to figure out where they were going to put all of the grain they were harvesting and this year they’re wondering if there’ll be a market for puffed wheat! Pre-puffed wheat, as it were. Yikes!


I don’t know how they do it. You plan and you plan and you plan and you work and you work and you work but everything you do depends completely on something entirely out of your control. I don’t know about you but I know it’d drive me nuts.

Although my livelihood was never at risk I can relate somewhat to having planned and planned and worked and worked at setting up an event of some kind and then have the weather completely spoil the day. Its frustration personified.

Then again…so what…big deal, your ball tournament or golf tournament or your family picnic was a little muddy and chilly but you can still slug through it and you can still have fun if you make the most of it but I’m not so sure how much fun a farmer would be having these days. Sorry if I’m rubbing salt in your wounds but I’ve got to talk about something, don’t I?

I had worked in the construction/building supply industry for many years and the weather plays a huge part in determining what task would be performed on any given day in that business, too, but, if you’re busy enough, there was always something productive that you could do until the weather turned favourable enough to get the work done.

Speaking of differences between years, I guess last year the golf course had to pay to get water pumped ONTO the course and this year you’d be hard pressed to hit a ball anywhere out there that didn’t send up a splash. And I’m not talking about the four big ponds that I routinely hit my shots into either. I’m talking…ANYWHERE! I’ve been golfing out there ever since the first ball was hit and I cannot recall that much water lying around…ever!

I guess this is why: I did a quick check of the old Government of Canada Daily Climate Data Report and the accumulated millimeters of rainfall in August 2014 for the Regina area saw 134.8mm of rainfall compared to 23.5mm in 2013. I know! To top it off 13.4mm of the 23.5mm last year fell in one day, too. No wonder there’s water laying everywhere and our sump pump is still doing double time.

Keep in mind that we’re still in Saskatchewan and any kind of weather can happen here at any time. The one thing about the weather in Saskatchewan is that it is consistently inconsistent. Saskatchewan weather years are like snowflakes…no two are ever the same.

Next year will be next year but we won’t have to deal with that until next year, will we? What will it be then? More moisture? Less? There is one thing that it will obviously be…and that is…different.

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”-John Ruskin (1819-1900).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SINCE MAY LONG WEEKEND??!! REALLY?

Here it is the 10th of September and I haven't had an entry on this site since May Long Weekend! How embarrassing!  Sorry about that.
Anyway, if anyone has tuned in recently I will tell you that I just posted about 15 columns that I wrote between that last posting in May and now.
I will strive to do better. You can't be a blogger if you don't blog.

EMILY MOVES TO KELOWNA.

           There were a lot of mixed emotions when we pulled out of Regina on the morning of August 30th. We were heading off to beautiful British Columbia and we were excited, nervous, happy and sad all at the same time. You see, we were moving our youngest daughter, Emily, to her new home in Kelowna and while we were happy she was going to further her education and enhance her Marketing Analyst career we were sad that it was going to be two provinces away. Sometimes, though, you’ve got to take the good with the bad.
            I had been out to the Left Coast only once a long, long time ago, when I was nine-years-old, and Deb had never been further into the Rockies than the Frank Slide site so we were pretty excited about the site-seeing and somewhat nervous about the mountain driving.
            Not so long ago Emily had driven to the coast and she is a competent and confident driver and was totally comfortable driving through the mountains. I, on the other hand, didn’t really know what to expect and I was just hopeful that I didn’t become part of the scenery while looking at it. So we headed out with me in one vehicle and Emily and Deb in Em’s car. Luckily, arrangements had been made for the largest amount of her belongings to arrive in Kelowna a day or two after we did so we didn’t have to pull a trailer or U-haul, or anything, so that was a blessing.
            We got off to an interesting start as we had picked Calgary as our first overnight stop and we booked a room online at “Calgary’s newest and hippest” hotel-Aloft. It was easily accessible off of Highway #1, affordable and looked pretty cool. It was a little disconcerting, though, when we pulled into the parking lot on Saturday night and it looked like we’d arrived at a “Ladies of the Evening” convention or a “Stripper’s Are Us” outlet. It was only a pre-University private pool party going on and it didn’t affect our stay too much. Debbie and Emily strongly suggested that I stick to “Nature’s Natural Wonders” for sightseeing on the rest of the trip, though. An argument could be made about the definition of “natural” but let’s not go there, shall we?
            The whole trip covered over 3200 kilometers of travel and the worst driving conditions we experienced were between Calgary and Canmore. Apparently, Labour Day Long Weekend Sunday could possibly be one of the worst times to pick to drive that piece of the Trans Canada Highway. It was side-by-side, bumper-to-bumper 130kms/hour for as far as the eye could see on the highway. The good news is that it made driving the rest of the 3000-odd kilometers a lot less nerve-racking.
            When they say “Beautiful” British Columbia they really mean it. We haven’t said “wow” that many times in a week for a long, long time. We were also blessed with great weather and the only non-sunny day happened to be the day that Bobby “Bouche” Byrnell arranged a helicopter ride for us over Shuswap Lake while we were visiting him, Bridgette and the girls in Scotch Creek. The description of that helicopter ride is a whole article in itself. Again…WOW!
            The Okanogan Valley runs from Valemount in the north of the valley to Osoyoos in the south. The scenery is some of the most majestic and beautiful in the world. The vineyards, orchards and resorts make it a must-see destination. We drove in the beauty, we walked in the beauty, we golfed in the beauty, we flew in the beauty and we sat and stared at the beauty.
            We travelled #1 highway out and #3 highway back in an attempt to make the most out of the limited time we had allowed ourselves. We packed a lot of activity into those seven days and we have already begun planning a return trip with more time penciled in to explore a lot of sites that we didn’t make time for this go around.
            As we watched the mountain beauty shrink in the rearview mirror there were no mixed emotions this time. There was only one…sadness. We were leaving the majestic, awesome beauty that is B.C and, more importantly, our daughter in her new surroundings in Kelowna. She’s in great hands, though, with her life-long best friend, Bethany Hilderman, living there, too, and her old Moose Jaw roommate sharing the living arrangements again but, still, we came home without her and that wasn’t an easy thing to do. Then again, on the other hand, it gives us the best reason to make a return trip.

            “The mountains are calling and I must go.”-John Muir-Scottish naturalist and preservationist (1838-1914).

"MY SUMMER VACATION"

             It’s been a long, long time since I was in school but I still remember one of the first class assignments of the new school year was to write an essay on “My Summer Vacation”.
The activities changed from year to year as I grew older, from going to Summer Camp and family vacations to hanging out at Kenosee Lake and playing football in the Little Schoolyard.
Of course, there were many of the activities that didn’t change like swimming and playing baseball and golfing, which I’ve been doing for years and years and years and I still got to do a lot of those activities again this summer in between the rains.
Reporting the types of activities in a school report also changed over time as some things you just didn’t want to tell your teacher that you or your peers did over the summer break. You know, changing names to protect the guilty and such. It’s one thing to tell everyone about playing hide-‘n-seek or kick the can or visiting Uncle Bill’s but it’s another to tell them about crab apple snitching, garden raiding or sneaking smokes. Some things are best left unsaid.
            As we age the priorities change and the days of care-free running and adventure seeking have morphed into home improvement chores and yard-work, which can sometimes become adventures, too, but they do not nearly have the appeal of one’s childhood and teen years’ adventures. There is, however, a certain amount of satisfaction that can be gained through hard work giving the relaxation and fun time more meaning.
            Now, we didn’t go zip-lining, or kayaking, or anything, but we packed a lot of fun time in over the last few months. There were two family reunions, a wedding, baseball provincials in Weyburn, with the Eden Valley Senators, a soaking wet and thoroughly enjoyable Seed Hawk golf tournament and our daughter Meghan camped here for two weeks while her son Treyton (5) and daughter Ava (2) were enrolled in swimming lessons.
            We really enjoyed watching the two little ones improve their swimming skills over the two weeks of lessons. And…I got to catch my grandson Treyton’s first ever jump off the diving board! So cool.
            The weekly Men’s and Ladies’ Nights at the Kingswood Golf Club were looked forward to with great anticipation with an end result of a mixed bag of exasperation, frustration and exhilaration. Good times, good times.
It wasn’t all fun ‘n games, though. There was a bit of a shaky start to the summer as we were inundated with a scary amount of rain over the July long weekend. We were this close to declaring an emergency in town and many communities in our area were devastated. Some more than once.
I know we had lots of water lying around our yard for a day or two but nothing compared to the flooding in the chain of lakes along the QuAppelle Valley. I know many people who were greatly affected by that flooding so I think, all in all, Kipling didn’t fair so bad through the stormy season.
For me, this busy, busy summer was filled with time well-spent. I guess it is what you make it, though, and if you try, just a little bit, you can make the very best of the too-short season and fill it with as many memories as you can.

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”-Dr. Seuss.

AAAAAHHHHH...LABOUR DAY WEEKEND...ALREADY!

           I am going to rehash an old column for you again this week. My apologies, Dear Reader, but this year’s summer has been as busy as or busier than any in recent memory. This past month has been particularly crazy with activities at our household and I am feeling a little time-crunched, so I going to republish the Labour Day column that I wrote last year. Here you go.
            Once again, the Labour Day Weekend is upon us so the time has come, (ALREADY), for me to do my annual “the summer is over” whiny schtick. Any of you regular readers of this column will be all too familiar with my love of summer and hatred of its ending but I won’t bore you with any more details than that this time around. For a detailed view of my humble opinion on the matter you can go to my blog site: http://pnhubbard.blogspot.com/ and search out last year’s write-up and save us both some time. Thanks.
            The summer of 2013 will actually end on September 21st but for all intents and purposes the Labour Day Weekend will signify the unofficial and symbolic end to the summer season. According to traditions of old, after this weekend it’s time to put away the white outfits and break out the backpacks and book-bags. But before that happens you should hit the cottage, the lake, the swimming pool, the water-slides and the vacations spots one more time before getting back to “normal”. Yes, like it or not, summer has passed us by one more time. There might still be some “summer-like” weather conditions for a while but once the calendar flips to September, boy, she’s all downhill from there. For summer lovers, that is.
            If the last long weekend of the hot season is summer’s last gasp…why is it called Labour Day? Funny you should ask…I was just wondering the same thing.
            According to my research Labour Day has been celebrated here in Canada on the first Monday of September since the late 1800’s. The origins of Labour Day can be traced back to December of 1872 when a parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58-hour work-week. At that time many workers were working at least twelve hours a day. The Toronto Trades Assembly called its twenty-seven unions to demonstrate in support of the Typographical Union who had been on strike since March 25th.
            George Brown, Canadian politician and editor of the Toronto Globe, hit back at his striking employees pressing police to charge the Typographical Union with “conspiracy”. Although the laws criminalizing union activity were outdated and had already been abolished in Great Britain, they were still on the books in Canada and police arrested twenty-four leaders of the Typographical Union.
Labour leaders decided to call another demonstration on September 3rd to protest the arrests. Seven unions marched in Ottawa prompting a promise by Canadian Prime Minister, and Brown’s political foe, Sir John A. MacDonald, to repeal the “barbarous” anti-union laws. Parliament passed the Trade Union Act the following June.
The parades in support of the printer’s strike became a yearly event. After attending one of these labour festivals in Toronto, United States labour leader, Peter J. McGuire went back to New York and established the first U.S. Labour Day on September 5th, 1882. It took a while, but in July of 1894 the Conservative government of Prime Minister Sir John Thompson officially made Labour Day a national holiday.
I am not promoting this column as a pro-union statement but, historically and factually, without the sacrifices of past union labourers and leaders there would be few workers’ rights today. So while you float around the pool or lounge on your cottage deck or take in the Labour Day Classic you could give a little silent thank you to the many people whose vision and sacrifices have made it possible for so many workers to enjoy weekends, (long and short), a standard 40-hour work week, overtime, coffee and lunch breaks, paid vacation, sick leave, minimum wage, maternity leave, Child Labour Laws, Occupational Health and Safety, Worker’s Compensation, pensions, wrongful termination laws…

“Without labour nothing prospers.”-Sophocles.

A LITTLE BIT OF LOWELL AND ROSE HUBBARD'S FAMILY HISTORY

          Lowell and Rose Hubbard spent the full decade of the 1970’s in Kipling and this community was always near and dear to their hearts. Mom’s family had farmed here in the 1920’s and 30’s so it was a bit of a home coming for Mom when Dad accepted the position as the Minister of the United Church of Canada’s Kipling/Windthorst Pastoral Charge in the spring of 1970. Dad, Mom and the three youngest of their nine children, Gordon, Perry and Shelly moved into the Manse house in Kipling on a scorching hot July 1st day in 1970.
            As coincidence would have it, when Dad and Mom came to Kipling for the job interview and the acceptance of the position, the head of the Official Church Board was D. A. (Alex) Cunningham who happened to live in a big house located at 617 Main Street in Kipling. While Dad and D.A. went to the church to meet with the other board members Mom and Mrs. Cunningham, May, stayed back at the house visiting and May and D.A. hosted a celebratory supper for Dad and Mom at their residence later that evening. Debbie and I have lived in that exact house for the past twenty-one years!
Mom passed on to me the correspondence letters between Dad and D.A. that led to Dad and Mom’s decision to accept the Kipling/Windthorst Pastoral Charge offer and I still have Dad’s copy of the contract that he and the church members signed in the spring of 1970.
            Dad ministered here until the fall of 1980 and during that decade they made many life-long friends and they continued to visit and stay in touch with the community until their deaths, Dad on June 21st, 1990 and Mom on June 21st, 2013. Yes, that’s right, the very same day of the year, their favourite day of the year, by the way…the first day of summer!
            Over the years, after they left Kipling in 1980, returning to Kipling was easy for them as brother Gordie married a Kipling girl, Val Bousfield, and Gord was Kipling’s Town Administrator for a number of years in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Our sister Margo married Kipling boy, Mark Krecsy, and they lived in Kipling for a number of years of years, too, in the 80’s and 90’s. I married a Windthorst girl, Debbie Lewis, and we moved back to Kipling in 1985 and have been here ever since allowing Mom and Dad to keep their ties to the community that they loved with many, many visits here.
            As our ninety-three-year-old mother’s health began to fail in the late spring of 2013 she called her children to her home in Medicine Hat, where she had been residing for the previous twenty years, and requested that her children and their children and their children, some seventy-plus, (and growing yearly), direct decedents meet annually for a family reunion. We readily obliged and, appropriately, Kipling was the chosen site for the very first Lowell and Rose Hubbard Family Reunion, (without Dad or Mom), on August 15th, 16th and 17th 2014.
             So sixty-one members of the family converged on the Town of Kipling this past weekend and we had a blast. Many of the people have been here many times and some hadn’t been here for years so it was really special for them to see what a great little community we have and how much it has changed and grown over past forty-four years.
Lowell and Rose Hubbard’s family will meet again next year in a new host community but the memories that we made this past weekend in Kipling will last forever.

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.”- Michael J. Fox (1961-).

SUPERMOON

Mankind has had a fascination with astrology and star/sky gazing for thousands of years. How can you not? Don’t you remember lying in the grass in the backyard or the schoolyard or whatever-yard and staring at the moon and the stars? Or the aurora borealis? Or picking out shapes from the clouds passing over? The skies are fascinating so it was kind of neat when we were treated to the Supermoon that lit up the sky over the last full moon cycle on Sunday the 10th of August.
            There are Harvest moons and Black moons, Blue moons and New moons and, apparently, there are also Supermoons. The name Supermoon was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 and I may have heard of the term before but I can’t really recall…but then again, half of the time I can’t remember why I went down to the basement.
            The moon on Sunday was the biggest and brightest of the year as it was 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than a regular full moon. This Supermoon was also the largest of the three consecutive celestial beauties of the summer. The first one was on 12th of July and the next one will be on September 9th. But this was the biggest and the brightest and I’m sure glad it wasn’t cloudy or I’d have missed it.
            During a Supermoon, the moon is closer to the Earth than it is during a regular full moon because the moon’s orbit around the Earth is elliptical, so that it’s closer to the Earth on one side of the orbit than the other. On average, the moon is 384,000 kilometers away at the closest point, its perigee, and is around 406,000 kilometers away at its furthest point, or apogee.
            Supermoons are moons that take place on the same day as the perigee, and on average, they happen about once every 13 ½ months but on Sunday, the moon turned full during the same hour as the perigee making it an extra-super moon. The August 10th Supermoon was the closest of the year and the moon was only 356,896 kilometers away making it bigger and brighter.
             My fixation with the celestial bodies and the moon may be linked to growing up in the 1960’s when the Americans and the USSR were in a Space Race. American President John F. Kennedy set a national goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s, which he proposed in a May 25, 1961, address to the American Congress. A goal that the Americans achieved with NASA’s Apollo 11landing on the moon on July 20th, 1969.
Something unachievable was achieved and as Astronaut and the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, so aptly said, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
           

            

INTERESTING STUFF.

          Our summer season is passing by too quickly, as usual, but there has been some eventful and interesting stuff going on around here lately. Highway 48 is this close to finally being completed from Kipling to the junction of Highways 48 and 9. I was a witness to a hole-in-one that technically wasn’t a hole-in-one. The Stanley Cup was in Whitewood last Wednesday and I was able to put my arm around it at last. And I even got to don the old spikes and ball gear after a four year hiatus last weekend and after all was said and done I didn’t even need to be hospitalized or heavily medicated or anything. Good times, good times.
            I didn’t take the time to investigate the full history of 48 Highway but if my memory serves me right I think they finished the portion of the highway all the way from White City to Kipling about forty years ago or so.
I don’t know if anyone knows why they came all this way and then didn’t finish the 27 kilometers, (or 17 miles to us older folks), of highway from Kipling, through Kennedy and then on to the junction of 48 and 9. It’s like someone said, “That’s it, we’re done”, and that was that.
Did they run out of money? Gravel? Asphalt? Political will? Ambition? What was it? Funding was probably the biggest hold back but c’mon, forty years? Sheesh. I guess the old idiom, “better late than never” applies but it’s small consolation to all of the people who have worn out their vehicles running up and down that wretched road over the years while the political football was being tossed around and no work was being done. But it’s done now and we are happier for it.
 Last Thursday at the weekly Men’s Night at the Kingswood Golf Course I was in a foursome with Jason Balogh when a rare shot occurred. We were teeing it up on hole number 3, which is a short par 3, and Jason hit his first shot way over the green and into the bush. Jason decided he’d shoot a provisional shot in case he couldn’t find his first ball and be darned if it didn’t go right into the hole! It was a hole-in-one but technically it was a 3 on his scorecard! It was an amazing shot regardless of the score and I got to witness it!
Brent McEwen is from Whitewood and an old Pipestone Beaver alumnus and he is also a scout for the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings of the NHL. As a team member he was able to bring the Stanley Cup to his hometown and show it off. Over 400 people attended an event at the Whitewood Arena to get their picture taken with the hallowed trophy, which is the holy grail of hockey. To be that close to that trophy was a great thrill indeed!
            On the weekend of July 25th, 26th and 27th the Masters Twilight Ball Tournament was held in Weyburn. The Masters is the Saskatchewan Baseball Association’s over 42 years-old (42?, but I digress), baseball championship tournament. The Eden Valley Senators, a hybrid of Edenland and Hazelwood district descendents, are a baseball team that Daryle Roth assembled a number of years ago and its players, spouses and children have evolved it into a close-knit, family-like unit. We don’t win a lot of ball games but we lead every tournament in camaraderie and fun.
Due to injury and scheduling conflicts I hadn’t been able to play for four years and I made the commitment to be at this year’s event come hell or high water and I’m sure glad I did. It was great to be back in the fold. We played at the lighted Tom Laing field of dreams ballpark in Weyburn and it was a great experience. I won’t tell you how many games we did or didn’t win but we had a fantastic time and we’ve already started our plans for next year’s tourney.
The summer’s going by fast but there’s still a ways to go and if the memories keep piling up like they’ve been doing the last little while it’ll be a great summer to remember.

“Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.-“ Bob Dylan 

HAPPY SASKATCHEWAN DAY!

           Happy Saskatchewan Day folks! Here’s hoping that you will have a great long weekend in good ol’ Sask-atch-ee-wan.
            This year’s Saskatchewan Day Civic Holiday is on August 4th. I know it’s sad to see July go but when it leads into a holiday long weekend it might be a lot less tough to take. I’m very certain that there will be some appropriate way for everyone to celebrate our wonderful province.
            If the Land of the Living Skies can’t provide you with enough inspiration to celebrate this vast province of ours, and its many, many amenities, then I don’t know if anything will.
There are so many things that we can celebrate and be thankful for in this vast province like the beautiful sunsets, the varied geographical beauty, the historical sites, amazing parks, golf courses, beaches, lakes and rivers, mineral spas, ‘Riders, country fairs and city exhibitions…and on and on it goes.
I know Saskatchewan has kind of been the “little brother” of the country. You know, the other provinces had to let it tag along even though it couldn’t keep up for the longest time, and everything, and nobody really paid any attention to it and didn’t even know, or care, where it was half of the time and then the next thing you know it’s growing up and people are paying attention to it because it’s pretty attractive and it’s getting a little affluent and it’s not so easy to ignore now and like many things that take a while to blossom, once it does…wow!
I’ve got mixed feelings on the anonymity of the place, though. I almost liked the fact that we could fly under everybody’s radar and keep our humble small-town feel. I like the fact that it’s not so crowded and everywhere you go you know somebody who knows somebody. I don’t mind growth as long as it doesn’t take away from our personality.
If you aren’t able to think of a reason to celebrate Saskatchewan go to the websie- clubsask.com-and you’ll find their list of 100 reasons to Celebrate Saskatchewan. I cannot possibly reproduce all 100 here but I will list off some of my favourite things from their list:
  • It is the easiest province in the country to draw.
  • There are more doilies per capita than any other province.
  • More hockey players than you can shake a stick at, among them, Olympic gold medallist in women's hockey, Hayley Wickenheiser, judged the best female hockey player in the world.
  • More former hockey greats from Saskatchewan are- Gordie Howe (Floral), Wendell Clark (Kelvington), Bryan Trottier (Val Marie), Johnny Bower (Prince Albert) and Eddie Shore (Fort Qu'Appelle), Doug Wickenheiser (Regina), Theoren Fleury (Oxbow), Glen Hall (Humboldt) to name a few.
  • There are 427 documented species of birds in Saskatchewan and it is one of the few places in North America where you can see magnificent whooping cranes relatively up close.
  • 100,000 lakes (beat that, Minnesota!).
  • The Saskatchewan Roughriders.
  • Saskatchewan Roughriders fans.
According to the United Nations Human Development Index Saskatchewan is one of the best places in the world to live, but we already knew that, didn’t we? Now go out and celebrate your reason why! Have fun and stay safe.

“Saskatchewan is much like Texas…except it’s more friendly to the United States”-Adlai E. Stevenson (1900-1965).

HOW TO RATE YOUR PARENTING SKILLS.

          You know, there’s no instruction manual for raising a child. Sure, there are thousands of resources now but even back thirty years ago, when my wife and I were experiencing parenting for the first time, the resources were somewhat limited compared to today’s computer age with the internet and everything and whole TV channels devoted to parenting. We used our parents’ behaviour and tactics as our guideline, like so many generations before us, and tried to keep the good stuff and discard the bad, or as it may be termed…“flying by the seat of our pants”.
There was Dr. Benjamin Spock, of course, not to be confused with Star Trek’s Mr. Spock or you’d really be raising a weirdo, who, along with his wife Jane Cheney, (Doctor Spock’s wife that is), penned the 1946 book, Dr. Spock's Baby & Child Care. The book has sold 50 million copies in 49 countries and if you Google “#1 Child Rearing Doctor”, Dr. Benjamin Spock’s name still comes up first.
Then again, with a brand new baby in the house who had time to read a book anyway? What with the feeding and the diaper changes, and to start with we used cloth ones if you can possibly imagine, and bathing and dressing and undressing and feeding and diaper changes and bathing and rocking and walking them to sleep…then along comes baby number two and then number three and years and years go by and we’re like… “where’d that book go? You know the one…the Mr. Spock book or whatever it’s called…the one that tells you how to do this stuff.”
And time, as it is wont to do, passes by so quickly and the children are graduating high school already and none of them has done jail time, or anything, so maybe you didn’t do such a bad job anyway and you continue on your merry way because what’s the sense in looking up how to raise a child now that you’re almost done. But…you’re never done. You are always a parent and they are always a child…your child.
So what’s the litmus test? What are the indicators that you have performed the task properly? The above mentioned jail time could be considered an indicator. How they care for their own children is another indicator. Of course, they won’t do it as good as you did it but neither did you to your parents, if you know what I mean. School marks, extracurricular activities, interaction with others, maturity, ethics, (work and otherwise) are all clear indicators of how well your parenting skills are.
Without breaking my arm patting myself on the back I think Debbie and I did a pretty good job with our parenting. None of our three children have been to jail…too long…just kidding…and they are hard-working, well-adjusted, civilized adults with two out of our three children raising their children and improving on the parenting they were, and are, subjected to.
But you don’t have to believe me. If there was ever a doubt that we were worthy of our parenting skills it was cast aside last week when we toured Casino Regina with our youngest daughter, Emily, who has been employed there as a Marketing Analyst for the past three-and-a-half years and will be leaving her job and her Casino family at the end of August to further her education. The interaction with her fellow employees and their true affection and respect for her was quite evident. They impressed upon us time and again how she will be terribly missed and what a “wonderful young woman you’ve raised there”. That…was all the litmus we needed.


“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”-Jackie Kennedy. (1929-1994).

RAIN, RAIN,RAIN!!

            Say…does anyone know a decent Ark builder? Nobody local comes to mind? It’s a little too late anyhow. Maybe? Yikes! Can you believe this stuff? Me neither.
            My apologies for appearing flippant while so many people are suffering in ways that I can only imagine but sometimes levity may also provide a bit of relief. I hope the above comment will make you smile just a wee bit despite the devastation of the flooding that has been so widespread across our region and our neighbouring province to the East.
            In comparison to the loss of property, houses, complete cottages, roads, crops, majestic trees, vehicles, etc etc our house was hardly inconvenienced at all. We are very, very lucky. The little bit of leakage coming in our basement was easily handled by a few ShopVac-fulls of water. We also lost a few bean plants because of the flooding, (I know…big deal), but other than that we came away virtually unscathed. I don’t know why it missed us but it did and we are thankful.
            We have good friends that have had unbelievable losses and the stories that are being told could be the stuff of a Stephen King novel. Especially the stories from the Crooked and Round Lake areas where we know a number of home and cottage owners.
Many of those owners worked tirelessly for days building dikes and taking belongings to higher ground and were just beginning to feel somewhat safe until the Saturday evening’s nasty thunderstorm/tornado put an end to any hope that many of the lake-front properties were going to be able to hold off the flood waters. Until that storm hit some of the property owners were feeling confident that the damage had been minimalized. And then, just like a Stephen King novel, right when you think you are the safest…the worst was yet to come.
            Before all this crazy rain I had had a conversation with an older couple from Roche Percee who had lost their house in the big flood of 2011 and they are still feeling the effects of the loss of property, community and their way of life three years after the fact. That’s the reality of devastation like this. You might be able to repair, rebuild, or relocate but it’s so very difficult to rebound completely from so great a loss. Thankfully, and touch wood, I can only imagine.
            At times like these, though, other stories come out about bravery and selflessness and compassion and giving and sacrifice. So many people rush to the aid of their friends, neighbours and complete strangers with a solidarity rarely seen in everyday life. It’s takes an event, or events, like this to bring out the best of humankind it seems.
            As we move along with our regular, daily lives the floods’ damage is still being felt in many, many communities. There were 87 communities that declared a State of Emergency in Saskatchewan and Manitoba since the rain started on the July long weekend and so many are still in need of help.
The Canadian Red Cross is there to help in situations just like this but even they have limits to their resources. If you want to help those in need one of the best ways is to contact The Canadian Red Cross at http://www.redcross.ca or for General or Donation Inquiries: email-WeCare@redcross.ca or 1-800-418-1111. Any amount and all donations we be gratefully accepted.

“Compassion brings us to a stop, and for a moment we rise above ourselves.”-Mason Cooley-(1927-2002).

THE ENDOSCOPY DEPARTMENT BLUES

I’m a pretty superstitious guy so I took it as an omen when I got assigned to bed #13 in the pre-op area prior to my scheduled gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedures recently at the General Hospital in Regina. I didn’t know exactly what the process would entail, and, like almost everyone else in the world, I was a little unnerved going into the tests anyway but the #13 thingy added a little more stress to the situation for me.
Humans’ greatest fear is the fear of the unknown and I was heading into unknown territory. I don’t think the procedures are exactly dangerous or risky, per se, but anytime they’re putting you in a hospital gown and feeding you the real good drugs the chances increase that anything could happen…good, bad or otherwise.
            It could be classified as either good or bad luck, depending on your point of view, to have both procedures scheduled on the same day. On one hand it saved us a second trip into the city and another go-round through the healthcare system but on the other hand I was going to be probed from both ends nearly at the same time and I wasn’t exactly thrilled by that prospect at all. 
             I think I’ll pass on the details of the liquid/low residue diet that you’re forced to be on the day before the tests or the mandatory laxative cocktail, and its ensuing effects, that one has to take the night before and the morning of the procedures, but suffice to say that the industrial strength colon cleanser is most effective. ‘Nuff said.
            I went to admitting as scheduled at 11:00AM hoping that the laxative’s effects were completely over but thinking it and knowing it are two different things so my forehead was a little beaded over with sweat as my stomach gurgled and I debated running to the john one more time or waiting it out for #61 to be called out while #59 was lit up in the red led lights above the Admitting desk. Ding went the bell and the lights went to #60 so my decision was made for me. There’s no way I was going to give up my place in line unless absolutely necessary. Fortunately I made it through Admitting without soiling myself. Whew.
            I then went to the next waiting room in the Endoscopy Department and nearly every chair was taken but half of the people in the waiting room were the patient’s rides so the wait wasn’t very long there. But the next station was a completely different story.
            That’s when I got led to bed #13 where my assigned nurse greeted me with all the necessary items, gown, robe, paper booties, plastic bag for my stuff and I was directed to one of three dressing room/bathrooms at the far end of the room. I glanced at the #13 light above my assigned bed and my stomach did a tiny flip. I don’t like this; I thought to myself, something’ll happen.
            I went across the room and picked the door in the middle and opened it up to a bare-naked man who was “door-lock challenged”, apparently, but his nurse standing outside the door, clipboard in hand, pointed up at the OCCUPIED sign and then said, “That one over there is unoccupied. The one that DOESN’T have a sign saying ‘occupied’.” Thankfully, she didn’t laugh too loudly at my embarrassment. Choosing the wrong door…bad luck? Or just stupidity?
            I got changed and processed without further incident by 11:30. As the procedures and the time schedule were described to me I was thinking that I’ll be out of here in a couple of hours for sure. Shouldn’t have thought it. Jinxed myself. I should have known better. Bad luck or stupid? There seemed to be a theme developing.
            For the next two-and-a-half hours I lay on bed #13 staring at the ceiling and watching the clock tick away as other patients came and went. No book, no magazine, no cell phone, no radio, no music…just me on the bed listening to Nurse Ratched, or whoever, answering the phone and badgering the callers on the other end of the line, the interaction of the staff with each other and the other patients and finding patterns and faces in the ceiling tile. For TWO-AND-A-HALF hours. Was that John Lennon or Jesus? Hard to tell…hmmm. There’s a teddy bear and a ball glove and a…
            Again, I will not bore you with the gory details of the uncomfortable test procedures or the loss of dignity in the “Flatulence Room”, (about the only place I know of where breaking wind is actually encouraged), but they sent me home with pictures, (ewwww), from the camera shots they took in both orifices and with any luck, “touch wood”, I’ll be given a clean bill of health when the final results come back.

“My feeling about fears is, if you voice your fears, they may come true. I’m superstitious enough to believe that.” Meryl Streep (1949-).

Howdy folks. I am in the process of upgrading my blog page so you may have to look around a bit to find what you're looking for. At the ...