And more trivia….

Did you know?
Today is the 100th anniversary of the horrific Halifax Explosion. I remember visiting the site in the early 1980’s when I went to visit my aunt in Halifax.  I had heard of the disaster in one of my history classes, but couldn’t fathom the impact until we drove around the harbour and could still see remnants of the explosion.

I can’t imagine how this horrible event would have seemed back in 1917. More than 2000 people lost their lives. Countless more were seriously injured or left homeless. A huge portion of the bustling city was flattened. The devastation paralleled the horrific events of Pearl Harbour, a mere 30 years and 2 days later. Yet few Canadians think of the Halifax Explosion on December 5. Instead, we think more about the horrifying results of December 7 in Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.  Although both were devastating, I have always wondered why we don’t hear more about our own disasters.
Another one of those things that make you go “Ummmmm”.  It’s neither bad nor goood; it just is.

Check out this article to learn more …


Man in the Mirror

A poem by my Dad


Man in The Mirror Sept.07/97 Reflections on my 71 Birthday

Who is that man in the mirror?

With lank grey hair and vacant stare

Who can he be? Surely not me?

With hairy ears and eyes full of tears,

He stares back at me, who can he be?

Surely not me! For only recently

I sat upon my Mothers knee

And only yesterday I skipped to school

To learn the rules of Calculus and Chemistry,

Then a short time hence

I became a soldier for Defence

Of Country King and Liberty.

For only yesterday again,

I took a wife, a lover for life

Then together raised a family.

I was a Farmer, a grower of Grain,

In the Sun and the Rain.

Though this is still a part of me

I must open wide my eyes and see,

That those happy years have fled,

And in the mirror by my bed

He stands; with shoulders stooped

And belly drooped,

Grandfather, Great Grandfather.

Then I know, with feelings of woe


A box full of memories

mom's jewellry box.pngThe old cliche “every picture tells a story” is so very true! While browsing Facebook tonight, I stumbled across this picture, and I was immediately transported back to my pre-teen self, sneaking a peak through my mom’s jewelry cream-coloured box.

This simple small box was a treasure trove for us.  My twin sister and I would often search through the contents to find just the right accessory to compliment our dress-up outfit for some silly little skit or project we were playing. I can’t quite find the right word to describe how I felt when I went searching through that magic box. The costume jewellery seemed so grown-up to us, so unreachable, so ethereal, so magical.  It was like I was touching something untouchable, even though we had mom’s permission to play with her stuff.  She had a fake tiara, some pearls, some multi-strands fake gemstone necklaces, and so much more. I don’t think any of it was very expensive or she would never have let her pack of daughters drag it all over the house – and sometimes the  expansive and wild farmyard.   But to me and my sisters they were priceless.  I can still see us dressing up  in her old cream-coloured wedding dress, her clear plastic high-heeled glamorous sandals, and her tiara.  The jewelry box was an essential adjunct to her old wooden trunk – it’s rounded lid providing entry to an endless supply of costumes used to feed our dreams.

My brother and I play with Christmas presents


I still have that same feeling when I go into my mom’s bedroom and see that worn-out box sitting right int he middle of her dresser. It’s a flash to my 8 year old-self, when mom was someone like an unknowable super woman. Someone grown-up, a little distant, but always present.  Adults to me were not meant to be known as friends. They were the grown-ups, the ones we were close to, but yet somehow removed.  Mom’s jewelry box seemed like an tentative entry into that foreign world.

My mom last year. Her jewelry box is still full of delicious baubles

One more rewind from the past

My son has been out of high school for 3 years already.  So why am I still feeling somewhat of the empty nest syndrome?  Sigh.  I guess sometimes all you can do is embrace the moment and cherish the memory. Doesn’t this sound cliche?  Nevertheless, I am trying hard to simply be grateful for having had the experiences of watching my kid grow up, rather than being sad about it being over.  So, one last blast from the past – so I can cherish the memory – then it’s time to move on and bust those empty nest cliches!

One of the few perks of being a mom who volunteered for everything, including even acting as  elected Trustee for a term – was that I had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to give a speech at grad.  Here is it is!

Comments for Grad, 2012


Trustee Greetings


Good evening everyone. I am very honored to bring greetings on behalf of the Board of Trustees. I can assure you that all the board members, as well as everyone is the Holy Spirit School Division is proud of your accomplishments today. This day is why we all do what we do – supporting your education is important for everyone in the division, from the maintenance staff, the Admin Assistants, the Educational Assistants, the teachers, (not only here, but also at St. Pats) the school council members, the senior leadership team, the trustees – we all are part of the community that is so excited for you today – to see that you have reached the completion of one very important turning point, and are prepared to move on to the next “grand adventures” in your life. Well Done!!!


Now, as most of you know, I am very thrilled to be here for many other reasons. And Mackenzie, I’ll try not to embarrass you too much – I’ve known most of you since you were little, some since the day you were born – right Brett! I’ve lived vicariously through your journey to today, sharing the excitement you felt on the many field trips you took at St. Pats, the special days such as the Penny Carnival, the track meets, the talent shows, and so much more. I’ve driven you, or rode with you, to the Birds of Prey Centre, Safety City, the Edmonton Legislature, (and slept on the band room floor), tied your skates at the rink, helped coach some of you in volleyball, driven you in basketball. Not to mention those really, really, really tough sacrifices I had to make to chaperone you on your band trips to Vancouver Island, Ottawa, and Montreal, The school trip to Europe, volleyball trip to California, the outdoor ed great adventures with you (where I had the dubious honour of being the last one to dump Herbie out of a canoe!) Squared! – And more. Gosh, the tough job of being a parent-chaperon with this group! I will miss those days, and I think I have probably enjoyed them just as much if not more than most of you! But I have also learned from these experiences that this class is indeed a great bunch of kids, ready to take on the world.


We have – Taylor – the musician, Bryden – going to criminal justice, Amy and Louise – off to U of L, Becky – going to be a 4H ambassador, Neil, a thriving artist, Ryan, going to play volleyball at Camrose, Mackenzie – off to college to take engineering, Brett – going to be a lineman to take care of our power needs, My girls Kaycee Joe and Alex (daughters 2 squared) and so much more. I know you’ll hear more about their talents and futures later tonight.


Back when I graduated, the world seemed to be waiting for us. But our world was much more limited than yours. We knew we would become teachers, farmers, office administrators, oilpatch workers and so on. But we never dreamed we could become what you can become. 15 years ago we said that the average person changed careers 3 – 4 times in a lifetime. I’ve worked for the same company over 23 years. But the future won’t be the same for you. You might change jobs and even careers 8 times or more. What you might become when you “grow up” most likely doesn’t even exist yet. Change will come at you so quickly you may feel like you’re barely able to blink. I knew all my neighbours, and could almost tell you who lived in every house in Taber. But you – your neighbours could change every few months. As the saying goes – the only thing constant will be change.


So how will you cope? You will cope by using the skills you have learned to date. To be creative and critical thinkers. To be willing to learn new skills; to shift your thinking to meet the times. But you will also need to take with you the fundamental values you leave with here today. You will need good friends who can laugh with you, who can share a story or two, who will make you feel connected to your world. You will need your basic values of the “Catholic education” you received. You’ll need the support of mentors and colleagues who will help you, and be there to “get your back” – much as the many teachers, coaches and others who have given so much of their time to get you here today. You will also need to remember that you are no better than, or of  no less value than anyone else – to hold your head high and work hard at whatever you choose to do. And, hopefully you’ll turn to your families, who have shared your journey here. We look at you now and see a group of handsome and beautiful young men and women, about to embark upon the rest of their lives – you’ll find many roller coasters – life will sometimes be beautiful, and sometimes tough. But no matter where you go, and what you do, you will always know that you have left a mark here. We are proud of you for what you have accomplished, and excited about your future.

My advice for you – don’t blink. Today seemed like it would never get here for most of you, but for us, it has arrived in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, you too will be at your son or daughter’s graduation, wondering on earth this day came so quickly. And, forgive all us parents and family members who tonight might shed a tear or two, for to us, the words of Robert Munsch ring true:

“We love you forever, we like you for always, as long as we are living, our babies, you will be.”





Another memory blast

I am definitely in a nostalgic mood – perhaps I’m cleaning my memory bank – spurred by my need to clean the pantry and cupboards at home!  I stumbled across some speeches I gave while acting as Trustee for our local school board.  This one was my first speech given to a grad class – the class of 2011.  Here it goes!

I am very honored to be here.  I’ve known many of you for several years, and it’s been great fun watching you grow and journey through adolescence and into adulthood.  I’ve been with you on field trips, track meets, volleyball and basketball games,outdoor ed trips, band trips, and more, and have loved  every minute of it.  It’s been a great pleasure to be there with you.  So tonight it is my true privilege to bring you greetings on behalf of the school board, and to wish u the best as u leave here to start the next grand adventure of your lives.  

I know that everyone is this room is thrilled to be here to help you celebrate tonight.  Although tonight is about celebrating your success, it is also important to thank the many people who have helped you get here … The teachers and staff of St. Patricks,  who are always very happy for you, their former students , and are proud of the part they played in helping you get here.     The teachers and staff of St. Marys, also played a big role in your lives, as did  the coaches, bus drivers, the youth minsters, and other parish members. And most importantly, your parents and family.

To those of us “non-grads” here tonight – we can be assured that this is a great group of young adults ready to take on life’s challenges.  We have apex award winners and nominees, star athletes -zone winning golfers, basketball  league MVPs, provincial volleyball champions, an outstanding swimmer,  scholarship winners, musicians – whether it be in band or youth group, youth with excellent survival skills learned out outdoor ed trips (and let me tell you – if you’re ever stranded in the woods – you’d want to have any one of the students who went on an outdoor trip with you – because they can take good care of you!), cardboard boat race winners, and more – future historians, chefs, carpenters, and other tradespeople, office administrators, business managers, multi-media experts all around – this graduating class is just a great group!

It is true it takes a village to raise a child, and as part of that village, I can guarantee you that we are all very proud of you, and want the best for you as you leave our school and perhaps our community.  

You have an exciting future ahead of you.    Technology has opened doors that weren’t even dreamed of a few short years ago.  The career you choose may not even exist yet today.  So you may find it challenging to say what you are going to be “when you grow  up”.  And that’s OK.  Statistics indicate that the average Canadian will change careers at least four or five times. So no worries. You will figure it out eventually.   Some of you have a good idea of what you are going to do right away – I’ll see some of you at the College (where I work).  Others are just beginning to explore the opportunities.  The first few years away from here are all about learning who you are, and what you want to do.  So enjoy the journey, but try  to stay true to yourself and the values you have learned while here.  

And we can be assured that this is a great group of young adults ready to take on life’s challenges.  We have Apex award winners and nominees, star athletes, scholarship winners, future historians, chefs, carpenters, and other tradespeople, office administrators, business managers, just an all around great bunch !

Know also that you will always be a part of St. Mary’s and the Holy Spirit School Division, and that you have a “whole village” here, wishing you the best, and holding you in our hearts.  

So, on behalf of the Holy Spirit Board of Trustees, congratulations, good luck, and know that you are in our thoughts and prayers as you journey forth.  And, don’t forget to come back and visit!

Blast from the Past – Down memory lane

I am on a “blast from the past” mood.  A couple of days ago my mom, niece Susan, nephew Jesse and I headed out to my brother’s farm to renew the family tradition of Saskatoon berry picking.  My mom, despite being so crippled with arthritis she can barely walk, insisted on stumbling around the shrubs to seek the perfect berry.  Alas, we all failed. It’s been a dry year and the birds beat us to whatever berries were ripe.  Nevertheless, we had a grand adventure.  Mom decided it was time for a road trip.  So, off we went.

Saskatoons are almost ready
Saskatoons are almost ready

We drove past the old haunts – the “5 hill road” named by Susan for its roly-poly gravel laden hills. Yes, hills do really exist on the prairies.  They may be few – and small, but nevertheless, they are hills – and these hills are packed with memories.  If you hit the one hill at just the right speed, you can get a stomach-dropping thrill as you rush over the peak and head down to the coulee bottom.  Of course, you have to have looked for the tell-tale sign of dust to indicate someone was coming from the other direction, as the road really is meant for only one lane.

We drove past Sherbune Hall, the now abandoned social gathering place for 3 generations of Kinniburgh area residents.  Many family reunions, family meals, family gatherings, and family fun events were held at that tiny hall.  The kids kind of grew up there – it was only a few miles from home – and it was so much easier to meet there for family gatherings than to over-run Mom and Dad’s house.  Of course the family functions also often morphed into stellar moments of family dis-function.  It comes with the territory when growing up in large families.   The hall was also the meeting place for many community groups – the TOPS group that held annual “mystery dinners”; the community Turkey Shoots and Pancake suppers, the weekly badminton games, community dances, and more.

The hall, like so many prairie places, is now empty.  The community no longer exists.  The families have moved, the farms have been sold to larger corporate entities. Many of the remaining farmyards are now owned by acreage people willing to trade a 30 minute drive to work for an endless prairie sky and solitude.  The school is gone. The Kinniburgh airport with it’s tiny runway – just big enough to land a spray plane – is overgrown and has almost vanished.

IMG_4818Although the area survived only 3 generations at best, it leaves a legacy of rural growth.  The golden years – the 1950s, the 60’s and even the 70s were a time of great growth and relative prosperity.  Communities developed and thrived. Children enjoyed freedoms impossible to be even dreamed of by today’s youth.  Swimming in canals, riding bikes down gravel roads for hours, driving farm equipment without safety training, playing on teeter totters, swings, and  metal slides  belong to our generation’s memories.   I remember snatching a few moments during recess to simply lay on the playground dirt / grass carpet of our rural school yard, staring up at the endless prairie sky, telling stories about the creatures we saw in the clouds, and dreaming. Simply dreaming.  One year Canada had agreed to be a fly-over testing site for American B-52 bombers coming from Great Falls.  During those fly-overs we tried to quickly fly a kite high enough to touch teh low-flying planes (maybe they were learning to fly below the radar?). Needless to say, we never quite touched them. But to our young minds, the planes were close enough to catch.

Anyway, I digress.  But that is what trips down memory lane do. They lead you in directions you haven’t visited for years. They provide rose-coloured glasses to view the past, and seem to ignore many of the unpleasantness that inevitably existed. And that is just what that day did for us.   For just a few short moments – we revisited our past.  We laughed as we remembered so many warm family memories.    That day was made even better because of my mom’s prankster personality.  On the way out we had driven past a roadside sign advertising fresh Saskatoons for sale.  When we drove by, we had joked that we could always go back and buy some of we didn’t pick any.  So, when we realized our pails would be empty. we decided to do just that.  On our way back home we stopped and filled two pails with freshly picked, plump, clean Saskatoons raised on a nearby irrigated farm.  We even made sure our mouths and hands were berry stained to ensure our story was believable.  I chuckled to myself as I peeked through the rear view mirror and saw my Masters Degree, College Instructor, mathlete niece and her brother shoved Saskatoons into their mouth, their eyes crinkling with pleasure.  Most importantly I watched my 88 year old mom remember and become once again my younger mom, able to teach her children and grandchildren the pleasures of berry picking – and the gentle blush of pleasure spread across her face as she realized how much we all treasured the memories she had worked so hard to build for us.

Maybe that’s part of the meaning of retirement – having the time to re-visit the simple pleasures of our youth – and watch those joys being reflected

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in to the next generation. Funny how a simple road trip can be so important.


Do I have a tribe?

I’m sittingIMG_5135ng on my deck, sipping at a cup of tea, looking at the mountain view to the west, and listening to – of course – CBC Radio. Today’s interview with Sebastian Junger explaining his new book “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” gave me a couple of ah-ha moments.  Sebastian writes about the experience of soldiers, first aid workers, emergency workers, and others when they arrive home after a traumatic experience. He suggests the sense of belonging arises from being a part of a team or sharing a common experience and ultimately results in a sense of tribalism within that group.   He posits that once we leave these situations, we lose our sense of self and aren’t sure of how to behave. He shared a story of a soldier who came home after a very intense posting overseas. He was with his wife in the grocery store, surrounded by a plethora of choices. If I recall the story correctly, the soldier was so overwhelmed he couldn’t even pick out his cereal. He didn’t know how to make that choice.  I know I haven’t captured the full meaning of that conversation, but it made sense to me. I will need to listen to it again to fully “get it”. Perhaps I will even read his book!

The interview continued to discuss people’s experiences from events such as World War II, the Springhill Mine Disaster, and more.  My first “Ah-ha”moment – that’s why I remember so many of the seniors talking so gleefully about their World War II experiences.  These were young adults, sent off to “save the world” – and fight for their country. Yet when that fight is over, what is next?  Where do they belong?  How do they fit in and find their new place?

Fortunately I have not been through any such traumatic and life-changing experiences.  But his ideas did resonate.  Do we form our own tribe at work?  Is that sense of belonging developed from being with colleagues, employers, and others involved in our massive world of work, suddenly disappear when we retire?  I’d say yes.  I miss the sense of being part of that work tribe. Perhaps  I, and others like me, stay in somewhat unhealthy work relationships longer than we should – because we see no alternative tribe to join.  Carrying that deeper – I come from a big family – a tribe of 8 children and a large extended family.  Although I cherish my alone time, I still have always felt a need to belong to some group. I do better overall when I have a group activity or event to go to, even if I need my quiet time and space while with the group.

I think this interview gave me some better insights as to  why I feel such a need to join an adventure, belong to a club, and seek out a new tribe.  All part of the journey, isn’t it!img_0405.jpg

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