Friday, May 29, 2015

Jean Beliveau: 1931-2014

 A Canadian of Integrity!
“Hockey was elevated forever
by his character, his dignity and his class!”
(NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman)

My Dad was very  sports-minded.  When time permitted, he played men's fastball as a catcher on a local team.  Winter Saturday evenings was “Hockey Night in Canada”.  Fervently we listened on the radio as Foster Hewitt called the Toronto Maple Leaf's games...thrilled each time at Foster's excited, “HE SHOOTS...HE SCORES!!!”  It was a natural, that with my father's enthusiasm, I came to recognize many 'big names' in the National Hockey League. 

In my blog series, Canadians of Interest, I've written about Hockey Great ~ Pat Quinn...from Hamilton, Ontario and his contribution to the World of Hockey. Recently, I'm informed about Gordie Howe, seriously ill and  recovering from stroke problems.  Also, a Canadian born in Floral, Saskatchewan.

In that era, there was no such thing as 'minor hockey' ~ kids in Quebec were usually coached by the local priests  (no girls allowed) and played with their peers until they were deemed good enough to play against teams of factory workers from neighbouring towns on Saturday nights. Jean Beliveau once told a reporter, “My parents gave me a pair of skates when I was 3, maybe 4 years old; everyone had a sheet of ice in their yard, back then. So, my friends and I started skating and listening to the radio, then we dreamed of seeing ourselves in that Canadien jersey.  As a 15-year-old, the Montreal Canadiens acquired his professional rights. By the time he went to play for the  Junior Quebec Citadels in the late 1940's, he was a 6-foot 3-inch 'man-child' with grace and deftness of play.

Today, I excerpt from a tribute to Jean Beliveau written by Bill Beacon of the Canadian Press...(published December 4, 2014)

The Consummate Captain

It's hard to imagine a classier hockey player, on and off the ice, than Jean Beliveau.  A supremely skilled centre for 18 seasons for the Montreal Canadiens, the 83-year-old Beliveau was also a gracious spokesman for the team and the sport. The NHL lost the man who embodied all the attributes of their dynasty teams of the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's ~ talent, flair, intelligence and success. He scored 507 goals, won 10 Stanley Cups, 2 Hart trophies, Ross trophy, Conn Smythe trophy and was captain for 10 seasons before his retirement in 1971, then moved into an executive position with the club. 

“Like millions of hockey fans who followed the life and the career of Jean Beliveau, the 'Canadiens' today mourn the passing of a  man whose contribution to the development of our sport and our society was unmeasurable,” team owner Geoff Molson said in a statement posted on the Canadien's website  on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.  “Jean Beliveau was a great leader, a gentleman and arguably the greatest ambassador our game has ever known,” Molson added.

“Meeting him is not like meeting other stars from the old days,” stated Beliveau's  former linemate Gilles Tremblay (who died last week).  “When people see Bobby Hull, they say, 'Hi Bobby' but when they meet Big Jean, it's always, 'Hi, Mr. Beliveau' or 'Monsier Beliveau.'  He commands respect.

NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, said, “For all the accomplishments he achieved and all the accolades received, Jean Beliveau was always the epitome of the boy whose only dream was to play for the 'Montreal Canadiens'.

Such was his spotless image, Beliveau turned down an offer from Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, in the 1980's to sit in the Senate and refused an offer  extended by Prime Minister Jean Chretien in 1994 to become Canada's Governor-General. 

It seemed that Beliveau got  his business savvy from his father, Arthur Beliveau, an electrician...and his values from growing up in the small Quebec community  of Victoriaville, where he was an altar boy at the local church. He learned to control the puck on a crowded back yard rink, and by the time he was a teenager, the Beliveau legend was growing. When Victoriaville's junior team folded, he moved to Quebec City and began filling rinks around the province.  When he moved up to the senior Aces, he was said to be earning $20,000 in salary and endorsements on what officially was an amateur team.

The 'Canadiens' handed Beliveau, nicknamed Le Gros Bill, a $110,000 five-year contract, including a large signing bonus, to lure him from Quebec, a city he loved and that adored him in return.  He carried tremendous pressure into the NHL, both for his amateur scoring feats and his salary, which was only topped by scoring legend Maurice (Rocket) Richard.

The third season marked the beginning of the Canadien's record string of five consecutive Stanley Cup titles that also had Richard, scorers Dickie Moore and Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion....and two innovators...rushing defenceman Doug Harvey and wandering goaltender, Jacques Plante.

At six-foot-three and 205 pounds,
Beliveau combined strength, a long reach,
a soft touch on the puck and remarkable vision
on the ice to dominate the league.
Beliveau's slap shot, with a lazy-looking half wind-up,
was deceptively hard.

“He was a hero for all of the players in my generation.
Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard were our idols.
In everyone's memory, he is more than Mr. Hockey ~
he's Mr. Gentleman as well.”
(Sarge Savard)

Merle Baird-Kerr...scripted December 7, 2014
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Monday, May 25, 2015

Measha Brueggergosman

        Opera Singer & Concert Artist
She was on my list of Outstanding Canadian Men and Women. Last evening watching Vision's TV channel, she is presenting a 4-part series...Songs of Freedom...which was superbly entertaining. On Wednesday evenings, I've been following the...Book of Negroes.  Her biography relating to four generations ago depicted her ancestors being part of that era in United States. With great pleasure, I introduce her to you.

She was born, Measha Gosman to Anne Eatmon and Sterling Gosman of Fredericton, New Brunswick on  June 28, 1977. Today, she is a Canadian soprano who has  has performed internationally and won numerous awards.  Her recordings of both classical and popular music have also received awards.

Life and Career: As a child, Gosman began singing in the choir of her local Baptist church, where her father served as a deacon.  She studied voice and piano from the age of seven.  At a teen, she took voice lessons in her home town...and spent summers on scholarships at the Boston Conservatory and at a choral camp in Rothesay, New Brunswick.  She studied for one  year with New Brunswick soprano, Wendy Nielsen, before moving on to studies at the University of Toronto, where she obtained a B. Mus.  She went to Germany for five years, where she pursued a Master's degree at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Dusseldorf, Germany.

She married Markus Bruegger, born in Switzerland.  They first met in high school, when he was an exchange student in New Brunswick. When they married, they combined their last names to Brueggergosman.

Her Ancestral History:  In 2007, Measha discovered her family's deep  history in Canada and United States.  Her paternal 4xgreat-grandparents were John Gosman and his wife, Rose, African Americans who each escaped from slavery in New England colonies during the American Revolution by going to the British lines.  John was from Connecticut and Rose from Rhode Island.  They probably met in New York City, then occupied by the British.  The British gave freedom to American slaves who left rebel slaveholders and sought refuge with them.  Tens of thousands of slaves, mostly in the South, took advantage of the war's chaos to escape;  so many, that the plantations were disrupted in South Carolina and Virginia, especially. 

After the war, the British arranged transport to Nova Scotia for nearly 3500 Black Loyalists from the former Thirteen Colonies.  John and Rose Gosman and their 5-month-old daughter, Fanny, born free in British lines, were recorded in the British embarkation record known as the...Book of Negroes. They had passage in 1783 on one of the last ships to leave New York for Nova Scotia.  Measha's 4xgreat-grandparents first lived in Shelburne, but later settled in Fredericton.

Her Goodwill: In 2007, Brueggergosman became the Goodwill Ambassador for the African Medical & Research Foundation (AMREF),  a charity working for Better Health in Africa.  In June of that year, she travelled to the war-affected village of Patongo in East Africa to share her voice as a form of musical therapy for children.  Brueggergosman described herself after the trip as 'never the same'  and continues her work with AMREF today.

Suffering a heart condition in June 2009, Brueggergosman took some time off to recover from open heart surgery.  She returned to the stage in September 2009 for a performance at the Toronto International Film Festival.

In 2012 Brueggergosman was a judge on the short-lived Canadian reality show...Canada's Got Talent.
The show was subsequently cancelled after one season.


At age 20, Measha played the lead in the premiere of the opera...Beatrice James Rolfe  and George Elliott Clarke. Produced in Toronto in 1998 and in Nova Scotia the following year, the opera tells the story of a slave girl in the 19th century rural Nova Scotia who murders her abusive father, the man who is also her master.  The  opera and Brueggergosman were well received by critics and audiences.  In 2000, it was filmed for the CBC.

Brueggergosman has appeared throughout Canada, where she has performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Geoffrey Moull, National Arts Centre Orchestra under the direction of Pinchas Zukerman and at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.

She has performed internationally, as well, in the United States, Germany and other nations.  She was in Elektra, Dead Man Walking  and Turandot with the Cincinnati Opera.  She has also performed the Verdi Requiem with Sir Andrew Davis and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, as well as with Helmuth Rilling at the International Beethoven Festival in Bonn.

In 2005, Brueggergosman was a soloist in recording William Bolcom's Songs of Innocence and Experience...which won 3 Grammy awards, including Best Classical Album.

In July 2007, she was a new performer at the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, singing in the 'Phanton of the Opera' medley and closing the show with 'Ave Maria'.

In the fall of 2009 she performed with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in their performance of Michael Tippett's oratorio A Child of Our Time.

She performed the Olympic Hymn at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.. She brilliantly performed an arrangement of the English sung version of the hymn in both English and French to reflect Canada's official languages.

Recently she performed Bess in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess for the Cincinnati Opera.

Awards and Recognition: These are numerous including recipient of the prestigious Canada Council and Chalmers Performing Arts grants...twice nominated for Juno Awards winning in 2008 for Classical Album of the Year.

Of herself, she states, “I feel I was groomed for great things...whether it was great success or great loss.  I have a capacity for extremes. I've had my crossroads. There is no happy without sad; there's no good without bad. I know now there is a balance in life ~ it eventually finds its way. Everything has merged to make me a better person and a better artist.”

Merle Baird-Kerr...scripted February 7, 2015
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Thursday, May 21, 2015


The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand,
nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship ~
it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one
 when you discover that someone else believes in you
and is willing to trust you with a friendship.
(Ralph  Waldo Emerson)

My home is a cosy apartment along a residential street.  Unseen to the public, is a spacious, private park-like retreat behind our complex to where we residents can quietly and socially escape.  There are over a dozen tall deciduous trees, 3 or 4 lofty spruce towering well above our 3-story edifice plus a wall of mature cedars along the property lines.  Access to this place of serenity is through the double Common Room doors. 

The broad winding concrete walkways are ideal for persons with 'walkers' or canes.  There are park benches and flowered areas that bloom throughout the summer. For those with a “green thumb”, are separate gardens where they may grow vegetables/and or flowers.  Each spring a truck-load of loam is delivered for them to use.  Late Spring to early Autumn provide us opportunities for social gatherings...plenty of chairs and umbrella-ed tables. The featured events may be BBQ meats and salads...even “Pot Luck”. Any gathering may have a theme:  Hawaiian, Country or Beach Wear is requested to be worn and the tables are decorated accordingly. 

Social activities are arranged for everyone in our complex to participate in.  Special dinners throughout the year (prepared on site in our kitchen…Christmas, Hallowe’en, summer BBQ).  One afternoon a group of ladies play scrabble; another afternoon is tea and coffee with accompanying sweets whereby a few residents bring crafts, books or cards to play and chat for a pleasant hour or two.  Nearby, St. Raphael’s Church offers Bridge and Euchre on a Monday afternoon; we are all welcome to attend any of the other church activities.

This morning, I retreated to ‘our park’ to enjoy the fresh Spring air, Nature's quiet and conversation with a Senior gentleman tending his patio garden.  Since time was not of great essence, I selected a park bench, donned my sunglasses and became immersed with the activities of squirrels and birds.

New leaves have recently sprung…easy to observe the squirrels' winter nests high up in the branches of deciduous trees.  A couple squirrels were scampering around on the ground and checking patios for give-away-food, fortunately, finding none. A couple birds captured my interest as they tweeted back and forth...they flew from tree to tree as if one invited the other to follow...then with dashing flights to  meet in the thickness of the green cedars.  Mother Rabbit  was around with 3 or 4 frisky young ones.

The golden sun was piercing the silvery-edged clouds as they amassed, slowly drifting in the hazy sky.

A poet could artist could paint...a philosopher could ponder and muse. It was a haven to me to spiritually assess, to unite with the “gifts of Nature” and to be inspired by certain people around me and the full environment in which I live.

Simple Things

(the following from a novel by Fern Michaels...Dear Emily)

After her 30th Birthday, Emily decided there was no such thing as Pure Happiness in marriage. There was, she told herself, fulfillment and even contentment.  Either you accepted it or rejected it, which was just another way of saying, “You went with the flow!” expression she'd heard on TV.

Emily, speaking with Father Anthony, of the Black Mountain Retreat in the Great Smokey Mountains, stated, “I may be in need of some spiritual guidance. What does one do when one reaches one's goals in life and in business?  Do you set new ones?  Do you mark time? I am not happy, nor am I unhappy.  It just seems that there should be more...of what?  I don't know.  Am I being selfish, wanting more?”

Father Anthony replied, “Peace and Happiness comes from within.  If  you had a wish, just one wish, for what would you wish?  It could be as simple as going away for a while ~ getting a new perspective!  The mountains here are breathtaking...streams are crystal clear...the walking trails are scented from heaven. This place is a coming-together of strangers ~ sharing and looking at your inner self ~ but only if  you want to explore that avenue.  It's a plain, simple life.”

“Father, how will I know when I've reached that place of contentment and inner peace?” 

He replied, “When you wake in the morning and you feel like singing...when you hate going to bed because there's more to do...or when you forget to eat because there's something more important to accomplish...when watching a sunrise gives you pleasure and you can't wait to see another!  Simple Things ~ a flower, a bird soaring in the sky...smiling for no reason!  Live life to the fullest because we don't know what tomorrow will bring.  You converse with God, Nature and Yourself.  Here, in this tranquil place, you can't fool anyone...last of all Yourself!”

What a Wonderful World
(Lyrics as sung by Louis Armstrong)

I see trees of green, red roses too,
I see them bloom for me and you.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world!

I see skies of blue and clouds of white;
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world!

The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, saying, “How do you do?”
They're really saying, “I love you.”

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow.
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world!

Oh, Yeah.

Think I’ll slip downstairs for a cuppa hot tea in the Common Room…
take a crocheted craft newly finished
and play this card game ‘Skip-Bo” (believe that’s what it’s called).

Merle Baird-Kerr...written May 8, 2014
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Sunday, May 17, 2015

"Surge and Madame X"

Humans like to think of themselves as a 'faithful species' but when it comes to  true fidelity, many other animals offer better examples to keep a relationship together.  Although monogamous and long-life-pair-bonds are generally rare in the animal kingdom, there are some animals that succeed. We, as humans can learn much from them if we but observe...and practise!

Throughout my extensive 'odyssey' about Mourning Doves, who three different times nested on one of my balcony chairs, I experienced and learned much about the 'relationship' between humans and these loving mourning doves.  In 2011. I wrote in the concluding blog article ~ The Human Touch:

During 'pregnancy' the parents share the time and effort to bring the babies to fruition.
They each feed the young with 'milk' to nourish them several times a day.
They provide shelter from storms and care for their family with whatever means they have.
They help their 'squabs' prepare for 'Life beyond the Nest'...often pushing them out to fly on their own.
                          It's a story of affection and of Peace in a harsh environment.
                          It's a story of violence in often a 'world of troubled people.'
                          It's a story of love and devotion to one's partner.
                          It's a story of love for the offspring.
                          It's a story of 'love and life lost'.
                          It's a story of 'grief, sadness and sorrow.' one of a New Life and Rebirth...and a story of gentleness.

A Good Bird Broken by a Fickle Mate
~ a true story written by Steve Buist in the Hamilton Spectator ~

There will be an autopsy, but surely that's not necessary.  It's as plain as the beak on your face.  Surge, the falcon is dead, and how can it be from anything other than a broken heart?

Surge, the faithful old feathered sentinel atop the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel, had been recuperating for the past five weeks after losing a vicious territorial struggle with a new rival vying for the affections of his longtime mate...Madame X.  On a cold January night, a wounded Surge was found near the HMCS Haida. His beak was nostril was eye was scratched.

At 13 years of age, the sands of time were running out for Surge, but he seemed to be making a steady recovery at the Owl Foundation sanctuary in Vineland.  His days as Madame X's main squeeze were finished...there was still hope a place could be found where he'd be able to putter around in retirement.

But Wednesday morning, Surge was discovered on the floor, breathing with difficulty.  He was taken to the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph and found to be having seizures.  He was given medication and that appeared to be working. Mike Street, a senior monitor with the Hamilton Community Peregrine Project's Falconwatch said they were ready to give him another dose of the anti-seizure medicine...and he just keeled over. The vets at the OVC were very puzzled as to why this happened.  Age certainly could have been a factor. Male and female peregrines have lived for 15 to 20 years in captivity but in the wild, 13 years is pretty darned good.
Surge was, by all accounts, a devoted mate and father!

The identity of the newcomer that knocked Surge off his perch remains a mystery, although he appears to be engaging in some type of courting ritual at the moment with Madame X. 

Mike Street states, “Surge will be hard to replace. He was always attentive to the chicks, especially when they were learning to fly.  We always said that Madame X whipped him into shape.”

Animals That Mate for Life

Lovebirds are social and affectionate small parrots: 8 species are native to Africa and the gray-headed lovebird is native to Madagascar.  Their name stems from the parrots' strong monogamous bonding with the long periods which the paired birds spend sitting together.

Gibbons are the nearest relatives to humans that mate for life.  They form extremely strong pair bonds.  The couple will spend time grooming each other and literally hanging out together in trees.

Swans form monogamous bonds that last for years and in some cases, for life.  Their loyalty to their mates is such that the image of 2 swans swimming with their necks entwined in the shape of a heart has become a nearly universal symbol of love. 

Black Vultures:  Good looks are not a prerequisite to a faithful relationship.  In fact, black vulture society makes sure of that!  They have been known to attack other vultures who've been philandering!

French Angelfish:  You're unlikely to ever find a French angelfish alone.  These creatures live, travel and even hunt in pairs.  The fish form monogamous bonds that often last as long as both are alive. 

Wolves:  Wolves have a family life that is more loyal and pious than most human relationships. Packs normally consist of a male, female and their offspring, essentially making wolf packs akin to a nuclear family.

Albatrosses may fly great distances over the oceans, but despite extreme travels, these birds will always return to the same place and be with the same partner when it's time to breed.  Pair bonds  form over several years...cemented through the use of goofy, but affectionate ritual dances.

Termites:  In an ant colony a 'queen' mates once with the male(s), stores the gametes for life...and the male ants die shortly after mating.  Several species of termites can form life-long pair-bonds between a female 'queen' and a single male 'king'...who literally gave birth to their entire kingdom!

Prairie Voles:  Although most rodents have a reputation for promiscuity, prairie voles generally form pair-bonds occasionally lasting a lifetime.  They huddle and groom each other, share nesting and pup-raising responsibility and greatly show a high level of support behavior...akin somewhat to humans.

Turtle Doves:  There's a reason they come in pairs of two...The Turtle Days of Christmas.  Their emblems of love and faithfulness have even inspired Shakespeare, being the subject of his poem...The Phoenix and the Turtle.

Schismatic Manson Worms: (YUK!):  These parasitic worms are usually far more faithful than the humans they inhabit. They cause the disease 'Schismatics' also known as 'snail fever'.  When they reproduce within the human body, they form loyal, monogamous pair-bonds lasting the entire cycle.

Bald Eagles (the national emblem of US):  When it comes to maintaining relationships, they soar much higher than the country they symbolize.  Bald eagles typically mate for life,,,except in the event of their partner's death or impotency...a number far lower than America's divorce rate now exceeding 50%.
A pair of bald eagles last summer returned to nest in a high pine tree
in Cootes Paradise...after almost complete extinction in Southern Ontario.

Peregrine Falcons are a wide-spread 'bird of prey'. They are the fastest members of the animal kingdom.  The highest measured flight speed of these species is 389 kmh (242 mph).  Their breeding range includes land regions from the Arctic tundra to the tropics.
We have been fortunate in having a few of these falcons nesting
in the Hamilton area and in the span of the Skyway Bridge.

Penguins:  Such loveable seabirds!  Recently I viewed a TV documentary about the largest settlement in the world of these tuxedo-birds...amazed that it was a sand and rock beach along Peru's coastline. Their nests are in the desert-like sand; during the mating season, the male and female are monogamous...each incubating the eggs, returning down steep rocky banks to the ocean to feed...  protecting and raising  their chicks with numerous challenges  in the harsh environment...whether here or in Antarctica.

With anticipation, we await Madame X's new brood
atop the Sheraton Hotel.

Merle Baird-Kerr...written March 23, 2015
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Update:  Lily Swoops in on MadameX and her Terviah Moro:
Lily is young, strong and fertile.  More so than Madame X, the rival whose perch…she’s usurped atop the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel.  She basically just showed up and hopped in.   This sudden changeover happened around mid-March.  Now Lily and partner Ossie are starting a family at the Sheraton site.  These peregrine falcons have at least three eggs together.

The whereabouts of Madame X, who turns 16 this year, are unknown. Lily, 5, took the older bird’s throne quickly, but it seems she’d had her eye on it for a while. (There must have been a fight of some sort.  We just don’t know.  And Madame X got the message and she left.)

Falconwatch would like to find Madame X and take care of her during the time she has left.  If she survives, Madame X, who is likely at the tail end of her reproductive cycle, will spend her twilight years trying to find shelter, food and perhaps warmth.

The first Peregrine Falcons were first spotted in Hamilton in the mid 1990’s.  Now there’s the Sheraton pair and two at the Skyway Bridge. Last summer, two more were spotted in upper Stoney Creek.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mother's Day Dinner

 Paul Benedetti lives in Hamilton. He is a former Spectator reporter
and now teaches Journalism at Western University in London, Ontario.

The following article written by him, was published in May 2013.

The Penny Drops on Mother's Day
It may be a made-up celebration, but those were real tears.

A couple week's ago on Mother's Day, my wife woke up to, well...nothing.
No bouquet of flowers.  No strawberries and cream and hot espresso on a tray.  Not even a large Tim Hortons and a Dutchie.  Nothing!

Our eldest son, James, was in the basement sleeping or up early reading, but either way, the chances of him remembering it was Mother's Day were about as high as him remembering to take out the recycling that night.  Near zero!

Our middle child, Matthew, was in Saskatoon and likely fast asleep.  My wife had made what is known as “Pre-emptive Mother's Day Anti-Disappointment Contact” the day before by calling and gently reminding Matt that Mother's Day was imminent.  He assured her that he would have called Sunday (likely his girlfriend would have reminded him) and all was well.

And Ella, our 16-year-old daughter, was where teenagers are Sunday mornings ~ asleep open-mouthed in a tangle of sheets and pillows.

My wife feels some of the situation in our home is my fault, and I have to reluctantly admit she is right.

I grew up with a father who had a universal disdain for what he called “phoney celebrations,” claiming they were invented by greeting card companies and retail merchants. He treated all these “holidays” and particularly Father's Day the same way, grudgingly sitting down to a nice dinner and accepting our gifts of bad ties and cheap after-shave, but complaining throughout.  Under the sarcasm was his real feeling...that what counted was not how you treated your mother on Mother's Day, but how you treated her every day.  And he lived that!

My grandmother lived in our home from the moment my parents were married and throughout our entire childhoods.  Later, when her health failed, my dad moved her into a retirement home and visited regularly despite the demands of commuting, a challenging job and five kids.  Once, during the drive to visit her, I asked him, with all the tact of a teenager, how he had “put up” with having his mother living with him his entire adult life.  He looked at me and said simply, “She's my mother.”  I thought of my own mother...and understood.

So, on Sunday morning, I called my mom, wished her a Happy Mother's Day and invited her to dinner.  Out of pity, I made my wife a nice hot latte and some toast and we got on with the day.  She went out and bought my mom a lovely plant that later would make me look like a good son.

As the day wore on, I began to worry a bit.  I gently reminded the kids that 'nonna' would be coming for dinner  because you know it's MOTHER'S DAY.  As usual, James disappeared into the basement and Ella retired to her room for the rest of the afternoon.  I picked up my mom...we had a nice dinner together and just when I thought all was lost, Ella came to the table with a loosely wrapped package.  “This is for  you,” she said and handed it to her mother.  Inside was a cream coloured sheet of water-colour paper upon which Ella had meticulously painted a bouquet of flowers.
“This is lovely,” said my wife.
“Turn it over,” said Ella.
On the back, she found a message carefully scribed in black ink. 
My wife began to read the words aloud, but could not finish...

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.
Thank you for supporting me.
Thank you for caring for me when I'm sad.
Thank you for taking care of me when I'm sick.
Thank you for being patient with me when I'm difficult.
Thank you for looking out for me.
Thank you for paying for my useless wants.
Thank you for driving  me around.
Thank you for understanding me.
Thank  you for teaching me to care for others.
Thank you for teaching me to always fight for what I believe in.
Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a beautiful woman.
Thank you for being my Mother.
I love you...Ella

“That's beautiful,” my wife said, tears streaming down her face.
I think that beats breakfast in bed.

Being a Woman is Priceless!
(Courtesy of Dilu)

Many men believe they are doing women a favour by asking for her hand in marriage...but consider:
She changes her name...changes her home...leaves her family...moves in with you...gets pregnant for you...pregnancy changes her body...she gets fat...almost gives up in the labour room due to the unbearable pains of child birth...even the kids she delivers, bear your name.  'Til the day she dies!

Everything she does (cooking, cleaning the house, taking care of your parents, bringing up your children, earning, advising you, ensuring you can be relaxed, maintaining all family relations...everything that benefits you ~ sometimes at the cost of her own health, hobbies and beauty.

So, who is really doing whom a favour?

Dear Men:  Appreciate the Women in your Lives Always!
It is not easy to be a woman.


Scripted by Merle Baird-Kerr...November 21, 2014
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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Letter to Mom from Camp

Dear Mom,
Our Scoutmaster told us to write to our parents in case you saw the flood on TV and got worried.  We are okay.  Only one of our tents and 2 sleeping bags got washed away.  Luckily, none of us got drowned because we were all up on the mountain looking for Adam when it happened. Oh yes, please call Adam's mother and tell her he is okay.  He can't write because of the cast.  I got to ride in one of the search and rescue Jeeps.  It was great.  We never would have found Adam in the dark if it hadn't been for the lightning.

Scoutmaster Ted got mad at Adam for going on a hike alone  without telling anyone.  Adam said he did tell  him, but it was during the fire, so he probably didn't hear him.  Did you know that if you put petroleum on the fire it will blow up? The wet wood didn't burn, but one of the tents did and also some of our clothes.  Matthew is going to look weird until his hair grows back.

We will be home on Saturday if Scoutmaster Ted gets the bus fixed.  It wasn't his fault about the crash.  The brakes worked okay when we left.  Scoutmaster Ted said that with a bus that old, you have to expect something to break down;  that's probably why he can't get insurance.

We think it's a super bus.  He doesn't care if we get it dirty...and if it's hot, sometimes he lets us ride on the bumpers.  It gets pretty hot with 45 people in a bus made for 24.  He let us take turns riding the trailer until the policeman stopped and talked to us.

Scoutmaster Ted is a neat guy.  Don't worry, he is a good driver.  In fact, he is teaching Horace how to drive on the mountain roads where there aren't any cops.  All we ever see up there are huge logging trucks.

This morning all of the guys were diving off the rocks and swimming out to the rapids.  Scoutmaster Ted wouldn't let me because I can't swim and Adam was afraid he would sink because of his cast, so he let us take the canoe out.  It was great.  You can still  see some of the trees under the water from the flood.

Scoutmaster Ted isn't crabby like some scoutmasters.  He didn't even get mad about the life jackets.  He has to spend a lot of time working on the bus so we are trying not to cause him any trouble.

Guess what?  We have all passed our first aid merit badges.  When Andrew dived into the lake and cut his arm, we all got to see how a tourniquet works.  Steve and I threw up, but Scoutmaster Ted said it was probably just food poisoning from the left-over chicken.  He said they got sick that way with food they ate in prison.  I'm so glad he got out and became our scoutmaster.  He said he sure figured out how to get things done better while he was doing his time.  By the way, what is a pedal-file?  I have to go now. 

We are going to town to post our letters and buy some more beer and ammo.  Don't worry about anything.  We are fine and tonight it's my turn to sleep in the Scoutmaster's tent.

Yours truly, Joey
And we wonder why Moms worry?

Sweet Words of Praise

My daughter came to me one day with a jacket
and a set of buttons, requesting I sew these on her jacket.
 I said, “You’re very capable of doing this task yourself.  Why me?”
“Because…you’re the Mom!”
(‘tis said: Once a Mom…always a Mom!)

Merle Baird-Kerr...written November 2, 2014
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Mother's Conscience

 (from a novel by Tami Hoag)

To Dr. Hannah Garrison, the day had seemed to last forever and night too soon.  The contradiction, she  thought  was just a reflection of her own inner turmoil.  She had been away from the hospital longer than 2 weeks.  (Josh, her young son, had been kidnapped ~ fortunately, returned a few days later, had been physically and emotionally abused...but would speak nothing about his ordeal).  She couldn't even imagine leaving Josh and Lily to return to the hospital ward...and yet, she missed her work and research  terribly...she missed the place and the people, her patients, her co-workers, her friends, the normalcy of routine, the drudgery of paper work.  Most of all...she missed who she was at work!  The strength of mind and will she wore in that role seemed to have come off with the white lab coat and the fake name brass tag.  Just, who was she?

She would never have said that she defined herself by her job.  It wasn't who she was what she did.  But, without the frame of reference it provided, she felt at a loss.  And with the feeling of loss, came guilt.  She wasn't only a doctor...she was a mother.  Her children needed her!  Why could she not define herself in those terms?  The 'curse of the 90's woman', she thought, struggling for a sense of humour.  A futile struggle!  The day had held little to laugh about and was only going to get worse...snowy weather in Minnesota...changes to the hospital staff (due to her absence)...medical appointments for her son who was mute and unable to talk. Josh and Lily ~ her importance now!

Professor Wright ~ A Sociopath?  There was nothing to make  himself stand out in a crowd as a suspect in Josh's kidnapping:  no glaring eyes, no sign of the devil branded into his forehead.  That was what frightened and fascinated people most ~ that monsters moved among them, unknowing, unsuspected.  People stood behind them in line at the bank, bumped carts with them at the groceteria.  Too many times, there was nothing there to see. 

Costello, defending Dr. Hannah Garrison, called her forward to testify.  Jay Butler, a writer assembling facts for a crime novel, was in attendance.  He considered this strategy. If Wright was the 'sociopath' Ellen North (the prosecuting lawyer) was painting him to be, then he was a consummate actor with a role he relished ~ the mild-mannered professor, well deserving of public sympathy.  Jay had to admit, he'd seen it before:  a mind as cold as arctic ice, capable of charm, just as capable of murder. He'd once sat opposite just such a man in a visitation booth in Angola Penitentiary...a man who was pleasant, articulate on all political issues of the day. Well-read, bright with a sharp sardonic wit. A man who had 3 truck-stop-waitresses hostage as sex slaves...tortured them to death...then took up taxidermy  and mounted their heads and breasts for his own trophy room.  D. Rodman Madsen, a sales rep for an irrigation company...twice voted 'salesman of the year'...and treasurer of the local Elks Lodge.  He was a killer behind the socially acceptable facade.  No one who knew him...had never suspected.

Dr. Hannah Garrison Professor Wright a Sociopath?
As a Mother...her duty was to protect her children at whatever the cost!

When a Mother Dies
(written by Paul Benedetti...Professor of Journalism at Western University)

Two weeks ago, I woke up, walked downstairs into the kitchen and said, “It's my Mom's birthday today.”  It was October 23.  My mother died May 4. “What are you going to do?” asked my wife. I had no idea.  We had always celebrated my mother's birthday.  Each year, one of the kids would step up and host a dinner...or sometimes just cake and Prosecco and coffee. My mom loved a celebration.  “I don't know,” I said.  “Maybe I'll go to the cemetery.  My wife gave me a look.  I never go to cemeteries...never thought much of visiting 'dead relatives'; believe I got that from my father who scoffed at the idea. “It's better to go see them when they're alive,” he'd say.  But for some reason, I had a strong urge to go.  “What do I do?  Should I bring some flowers or something?” I asked. 

“Sure.  Your mother liked mums.  Why don't you pick up some?” suggested my wife, who always has the answers to these things. So, I did. I bought a pot of  bright yellow mums and drove out to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.  I walked through the rows of headstones clutching my potted flowers.  I came to the grave and looked down at the foot stone and I read my father's name and the dates of his birth and death...and then my mother's name and her date of birth, October 23, 1927...and then a dash and an empty space.  I thought to myself, “We'll have to get that engraved,”...and then suddenly, I wept. I stood there, tears running down my face...and finally I sat down on the ledge of a gravestone nearby and wept some more. I wept not for her ~ she had lived a long and healthy and rich life.  No, I wept for myself. 

Grief is a strange emotion.  After she died, people would ask me, “How are you?” and I would answer, “I don't know...I've never really felt like this before.”  My father's death six years ago had been hard, and though I think of him in some way every single day, I am OK.  But when my mother died, I tried to be OK...but I was not.  And the people around me ~ my wife and my kids, knew I wasn't. I was flat and disconnected and sad.  It was as though the world had somehow changed...all the juice of life squeezed out and only the dry pulp and bitter rind remained. 

“I'm not really OK,” I told my wife in the summer.  “I know,” she said, a small sad smile on her face.  “Your mother filled a big place in your life. You talked to her...and saw her...and thought about her every day.  And that's gone now.”

I reached out to my siblings and told them how I felt.  My sister, Roseanne sent me an email that read in part, “I too have been feeling at a loss, and yes, disconnected...I know mom would be disappointed to know I am such a mess and would want me to focus on the good as she always did.  However, I am not as positive and energetic as she was.  I actually think we are all struggling...”

I thought of my mother and the way she soldiered through the deaths of all her siblings and her husband...and each time she refused to let grief overwhelm her.  She would often talk about them...tear up...and then fanning herself with her hand, she would straighten up and say, “OK, Mary, that's enough. That's enough!”  And she would smile and go forward to knitting classes or dance classes or home to make a pot of tomato sauce.  She would live!

I thought of all that when I stood up and wiped my face with my hand and said 'Good Bye' and slowly made my way to the car.  It was a perfect autumn day and the clear cobalt blue sky made the brilliant crimson, gold and russet of the fall leaves vibrate with intensity.  I walked back through the rows of gravestones...the sunshine warm on my face.  And it felt good!

Merle Baird-Kerr...scripted November 20, 2014
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Friday, May 1, 2015

Salute to May 2015

 ~ A mosaic of musings and ramblings ~

Earth Day, celebrated throughout the World with a Lights Out for Energy Conservation..was.a symbolic gesture toward taking action for our planet.  Horizon Utilities stated, “Earth Hour 2014 (for one hour in the evening) decreased 17 megawatts or 3.2%...enough to power 737 homes for 24  hours.”  My concept is that we should consider every day Earth Day...and in the words of Finn, a Grade 8 student from Spencer Valley Public School, I share UNLESS with you:

For years we have walked through long iridescent grass.
We have experienced the glittering sun, warming our faces with the heat of each beam.
The never ending ocean, that with each wave, unrolls a new story.
Fantasies should be colossal castles, bold courageous knights, graceful princesses & magical fairies.
Our children should be dreaming of soft snow blankets, towering trees thriving and a strong healthy civilization!  UNLESS:                                                         
We open up our eyes and perceive the imperfect world we really have, our society will get lost; dissolve into the mess that we've created.  UNLESS we repair the damage done, we will be destroyed.
If you feel differently, well, your future waits.

Best Sermons are Lived:  Today, I witnessed a 27-year-old breast cancer patient  hysterically laughing at her 2-year-old daughter's antics.  I suddenly realized that I need to stop complaining about my life...and start celebrating  it again.  (Courtesy of a collection from Carolyn)

Bizarre, Amazing Facts:  In Mexico, the act of escaping prison is considered legal...the law recognizes that 'all people have a fundamental desire to be free.'  (This fact, I've not verified.)

Community Acknowledgments:  MoneySense magazine has named Burlington the best-mid-sized city in Canada.  Within the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), it is defined by both significant urban and rural areas...a city where people, nature and business thrive.

Victory ~ Burlington's NEXXICE took top spot at the recent International Union's Synchronized Skating Championship (a team of 20 skaters). This event was the first held in Canada..

Three Argyll Officers to Meet Queen Elizabeth on May 19 at Buckingham Palace...she is the Colonel-in-Chief of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.  One of its members, Corporal Nathan Cirillo, was killed on duty in Ottawa, October 12, 2014 by a gun-toting man. The Queen's condolence letter was the first received by the Hamilton's Regiment.

Farm Milking:  Cow Spa?  Some dairy farmers are using rotating cow brushes to give their cows extra care and comfort. After all, cows love a back massage!  This revolution in 'cow comfort' helps improve cow health and welfare.  Cows will even line up to use the rotating cow brush!

Good Samaritans:  Acts of Kindness Helped Personal Recovery:  Nusrat Mir of Hamilton wrote, “I had an awful panic attack in front of a cafe...hyperventilating and shaking. A man held my hand while another patted my shoulder soothingly as he gently told me to 'breath in and out slowly'...a paramedic who knew exactly what to do in my situation.  Two girls, seeing me out in the cold sobbing, brought me a bottle of water and said, Good Luck with whatever you're dealing with.  I'm sure you'll do great! Later my friends calmed me with tight hugs. These people will never know how much they helped me and how much I thank them for encouragement.  These strangers saw someone in distress and rushed to help. I hope, if I see anyone in need, I'll be able to do the same.”

Health is Wealth:  Brain Food! 9 nutrients that boost the function of those 'little grey cells'! New research shows... nutrition has just as vital a role to play in mental health as it does in physical health.
Omega 3:  fatty fish like salmon and sardines, walnuts and flaxseed.
B Vitamins:  meat, eggs, dairy; beans, green leafy vegetables and grain products.
Coline: beef, soybeans, wheat germ, broccoli and brussel sprouts.
Iron:  red meat, poultry, seafood, dark leafy green vegetables and beans.
Zinc:  meat, poultry, seafood, nuts and whole-grain products.
Magnesium:  whole grains, nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables.
S-Adenosyl Methioninec (SAME):  from supplements.
Vitamin D:  sunlight, fatty fish, egg yolks and beef  liver.
Amino Acids:  meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts and whole grains.

Wildlife:  Did you know the Northern Leopard Frog has dark spots with light border that covers its back and sides; these spots resemble those of leopard?

Atlantic Puffins have difficulty becoming airborne…and often crash when landing. They are superbly adapted to swimming underwater, being compact, strong…their legs and feet act like rudders in water. 

MBK’s NewsBits:  Space Station Getting Italian Espresso- maker!  Aboard Space X supply ship is an authentic espresso machine from Italy.  The unmanned rocket will also carry 1800 kg of food and  other equipment.  The espresso machine is for International Space astronaut...Samantha Christopher of Italy.

Burger-King Wedding to be a Whopper!  Burger King is paying expenses and providing gifts for the wedding of an Illinois couple when Joel Burger weds Ashley King on July 17, 2015.

Cat to be Reunited with Owner after 6 Years!  A calico cat, stuck in Mud Animal Rescue of Belleville in Eastern Ontario, will be flown to Edmonton, Alberta, where she'll be picked up by her owner who had lost the cat while at college in Kemptville, Nova Scotia.

The Villarico Volcano, one of South America's most active, erupted in early March in southern Chile, spewing heavy smoke into the air; lava surged down the slopes.  Thousands of people moved to safety.

The Stratford Strut!  A flock of 20 white swans and a few geese paraded from their 'winter home' to the Avon River in Stratford, Ontario.  Hundreds of people lined the streets to watch the Annual Spring Swan Parade as they honked their way to their 'summer retreat'.

Luke Fillion is planning to walk from Hamilton to Toronto on Friday, today, to raise funds for the Palliative Care Unit at St. Peters Hospital in memory of his mother, Janis.

 Notable Dates:  May 8 (Friday) ~ World Red Cross Day
                            May 9 (Saturday) ~ International Migratory Day
                            May 10 (Sunday) ~ Mother's Day
                            May 12 (Tuesday) ~ International Nurses Day
                            May 18 (Monday) ~ Victoria Day; Patriot's Day...Quebec
                            May 22 (Friday) ~ International Day of Biodiversity
                            May 25 ~ (Monday) ~ National Missing Children's Day

Spiritual Advice:  Shamans On Call for Rites Near Machu Picchu.
In the highlands surrounding Machu Picchu in Peru, luxury hotels are calling Andes shamans to spiritually cleanse their guests...renew wedding vows...and lead ceremonies to offer gratitude to Mother Earth.  A local shaman may arrange morning hikes to explore sacred elements to develop a deeper understanding of the ancient Inca civilization's customs and spiritual beliefs.

Merle Baird-Kerr...crafted April 13, 2015
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