Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Father (1924 - 2007)

If there was anyone I knew who had a most difficult life, it was my father. Born in India in 1924, he spent most of his life in boarding schools as both his parents passed away when he was very young. After a short stint in the Royal Air Force and Indian Air Force, he married my mother and soon immigrated to England and, after "picking up" my sister and I, moved to Canada.

Today, he passed away.

I often wondered what my biggest regret would be upon my father's demise and I decided that this one regret would be that we never bonded like a father and son should have. Since then, I have become very aware of my own son's and my relationship and have strived hard to ensure that our relationship remains intact.

Fortunately, I can say that this regret regarding my father, though it is still there, isn't as large a regret as it could have become. In the latter years of our father and son relationship, we found a way to respect each other and, over time, learned to find a way to somehow get along and show love for each other

On Monday, New Year's Eve, I will stand by my father's grave site and know that I did my best to repair a once broken relationship. I will miss my father for he was a good father. I am also proud of him and will always think highly of him.

My father was a good man, a good provider and loved and appreciated by many people. He will be sadly missed by those who love him. He will always be loved and missed by me.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Nativity Scene

Growing up as a young lad, my parents always spoke to me about the birth of Jesus Christ found in Luke 2 of the Holy Bible.

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Luke 2:1-7

Now most of my life, I have always pictured the nativity scene as these ceramic statues of the three wise men, the kings, the shepherds, the sheep, the angel, the star, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus all in the wooden manger. It wasn’t until recently that I really gave thought as to how it really might have been. Looking at this photo from the movie “The Nativity” (2006), it occurred to me that all these “spectators” in our average manger scenes were more than likely no where to be found and that the only ones there were Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.

If you have ever given birth before or have been present during the time of a birth, you can very easily imagine the intimacy and joy that must have been shared between Mary and Joseph as she gave birth to their child in that small manger. Whether it is God’s son or simply their first born, the emotion they must have shared was nothing short of extreme joy and love. The awe that must have been seen on Joseph’s face and the pride he must have felt would have been evident as Mary looked upon him. The pain that Mary went through as she gave birth to her first born was the same pain that every other expectant mother through the ages has experienced to give life to something so wonderful and blessed. It was a pain of labour… a labour of love… a love for her child, for her husband, for her God.

So, as you think of the Manger scene, remember that Mary and Joseph are not just characters in movies and in ceramic manger scenes, but, in fact, real people who risked all to give birth to this wonderful real life child named Jesus whose birth millions of Christians celebrate every December 25th .

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Greeting Cards and Relationships

Have you ever gone to the local Hallmark store to pick up a greeting card and realized that you are having a very difficult time finding one that wasn’t too intimate or loving? Maybe last year you didn’t have this problem but now things seemed to have changed. You continue to scour the card rack when all of a sudden it hits you that maybe the difficulty isn’t in the fact that the card you need doesn’t exist but in the fact that your feelings have changed for that person over the past twelve months.

A number of years ago, I realized this while looking for a card for my father. Over the years, my father and I never really bonded well and as I got older I had a more and more difficult time in selecting a card that said how great a father he was. There was also a time when I realized that my feelings had changed for a former girlfriend once I started having great difficulty in selecting a Valentines Day card for her.

The unfortunate thing about relationships is that we all too often fail to nurture them. Instead of that needed nurture, we often take them for granted and thereby slip into a state of complacency to the point that the relationship is all but dead save for the fact that they are still there merely because out of habit. At this point, the only thing that makes us aware of the problem is when we have to actually come right out and tell them that we love them. Buying a card for them is one of these times. Nothing is more awkward then standing there watching them open a card and read words that you don’t really mean.

Upon this realization, we go to the “general section” of greeting cards and buy a blank one or one that says as little as possible. Now all that does is further the obvious as you have basically told this person how you really feel by allowing them to read between the lines.

How unfortunate to be in this position in a relationship!

At this time of the Christmas Season, take the time to look at those around you and see if there is anyone in this category in your life. Before picking up a card for them, try to take the time to try to mend what has been broken between the two of you and then when things have been patched up, buy them a card from your heart. Only then, will the card be truly appreciated.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The B-52 Coffee

Now, I am not a real drinker at heart but when it comes to Christmas time, I find myself taking in a bit more alcohol than I would during any other time of the year. Now don’t get me wrong… I have never been plastered nor have I ever had too much to drink but I do enjoy the warm feeling of the alcohol slide down my gullet from time to time.

Now one of my favorite drinks when out at a restaurant for a meal with friends is the B-52 specialty coffee. The only problem with the drink is the cost of it… a cool $6. Now I know that if I were to make this drink at home, it would not cost that much and thus my trip to the liquor store this weekend!

I have already purchased the coffee, I have secured the glasses needed and the sugar for the rim is already on the kitchen shelf. I have also placed maraschino cherries and whipped cream (the real stuff!) on the grocery list. The final task is to head to the liquor store and pick up bottles of Bailey's Irish Cream, Kahlua and Grand Marnier.

Below is a copy of the recipe…

Make enough coffee for as many servings needed.
Wet the rim of the glass and place upside down in a plate of sugar. Be sure to coat the entire rim of the glass.
Place the following amounts into the glass. Be sure to keep the ingredients off the glass rim.
1/2 ounce Bailey's Irish Cream
1/2 ounce Kahlua
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
4 ounces hot coffee
Top with whipped cream and one maraschino cherry

Now hopefully you will be blessed with a few Christmas visits from loved ones during this festive season and will be able to enjoy their fellowship and friendship throughout the next couple of weeks. During those times try a b-52 coffee and stay warm! Enjoy! Please just don't drink and drive.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Mum's Sterling Typewriter

Looking like a set of weathered yellow teeth, these keys smacked out hundreds of letters over the many years my mother used them to type out letters of employment, letters of love and letters of who knows what else. For over forty five years this typewriter served her well not only in Canada but also in the United Kingdom. We kids were not allowed to play with it and maybe that's why it is in such good condition today.

When I think back to each and every place we lived in Canada, I can remember exactly where she kept this Sterling typewriter... In the dining room behind the door leading to the kitchen... In the closet by the front door... Under my dad's desk. To me, it was like a piece of furniture. She relied on this instrument to get her through the rough times and the good times. She babied it because she knew that it was her lifeline to the outside world.

It wasn't unusual to hear its incessant tapping late into the night. It isn't difficult to remember how heavy it was for a little lad like me to carry it around. The blue and gray sterling... A part of my life... A part of my family!

Today, my mother gave me her typewriter. I know that my mum has been pruning the household treasures as if she wanted to pass down the family heritage before she dies but I didn't expect to see her give this piece of family nostalgia up so soon. I suppose she knows in her heart that she would no longer be using it anymore.

Now, I know that I will never use this typewriter but it is a part of the family and my heritage and so I am going to keep it. With pride, I am going to show it off to my children, grandchildren and anyone else who wants to listen to me as I tell them...

“This once belonged to my mother!”

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Wonderland

7am Sunday morning I was out driving my son to work. By 9:30am we were blanketed under a deluge of snow. Now it's not as if it was unexpected for the weatherman had been warning us for a week now to plan to stay indoors on Sunday. Now who can stay in and chance missing some of God's handiwork? Looking out the window, all I could see through the curtain of falling snowflakes was this blanket of snow which covered the entire neighborhood. With three or for neighbors pushing snow blowers, a couple of cars spinning tires in a desperate attempt to flee the neighborhood and a few others with shovels in hand, it became very apparent that I had a long day of shoveling ahead of me.

Before I went out with my shovel, I headed out with my camera. I was hoping to snap a photo of this young boy, no older than 4 trying to mount and ride his bike in the blizzard. It was a valiant attempt which ended suddenly and therefore deprived me of the photo of the day. C'est la vie! By 10am, I was out trying out my new red shovel that I bought from the local grocery store. Who would have thought that the best ones were there and not at the local Home Depot!

Two and a half hours later I was shoveled out and ready to head to my favorite park for a photo shoot of nature. The roads were horrific, the plows scarce and fortunately the cars few. The major roadways had yet to be touched and the parking lots were even in a worse condition. Slipping and sliding through the city and past the local mall, the reason for the scarcity of automobile became apparent as the mall parking lot was as filled as if it were a beautiful day out. I suppose that even snow blizzards can't discourage the ardent shopper to stay away.

By the time I had almost reached my destination of the park of my photo shoot, I became worried about becoming stuck in the mountainous drifts of snow that would have squalled amongst the trees... But I was wrong! The park had been plowed... Yeh to the Parks and Recreation Commission! Imagine that! The park gets plowed before the streets! Who would have thought!

I couldn't stay too long because I had to pick up my son from work within the hours but never-the-less it was well worth the trek across town.

Here are a few of the photos I took though I don't think that they do the scenes justice. There is nothing that can top viewing it with the naked eye! Click on the photos if you want to see a larger version.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

He Said She Said

Now I know that most of you don't follow Canadian politics and I don't blame you but then I have no doubt that, though you may know little about Canada, you can most certainly relate to what I am saying through your experiences of following the politics of your country. In my opinion, whether it be President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Gordon Brown or Prime Minister Stephen Harper, they all find themselves in hot water due to their lack of proper judgment at one time or another.

Recently in Canadian news, we have been inundated by hours and hours of television coverage, thousands of newspaper words and countless news reports regarding whether or not former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, after his days as the 18th Prime Minister of Canada in 1993, accepted $300,000 in kickbacks from German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.

After much "official interrogation, Mulroney finally admitted that he did indeed receive $300,000 but not as kickbacks.

Now, I am not going to bore you with the minute details because really... who cares! I know I don't. Besides, knowing how politicians are known for their misjudgments and lies, why would we believe them anyways? Especially when they are trying to cover their butts! I think that, especially during the Christmas season, we should be concentrating on more "seasonal issues" and less on who said what with the politicians we elected to lead our countries.

Anyways... enough from the peanut gallery and a merry festive season to you all!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Son Has a Girlfriend!

First my daughter... now my son! Girlfriends and boyfriends! What's next? Why can't they just hang out in groups, play sports or do schoolwork? Why do they have to date? What's the matter with them??

A few months ago, I reported about my son building himself a new computer. As a young boy, he had spent a fair amount of time playing on basketball teams, soccer teams and baseball teams but over the past eight years or so, he has spent practically 100% of his time at home on his computers and video games. By the end of the summer, he would return to school without a suntan as all he would do during the months of July and August was play games such as World of Warcraft, Halo 2 plus a multitude of other games. Now that he built a new computer, I was sure that this would signal the continuance of this lifestyle... alas! I was wrong!

Now that he has himself a girlfriend, I hardly see him at home. On the weekends, I sometimes never see him once as he works about 16 hours and spends the rest of his time hanging around with his little "chickypoo" (I hope he never reads this!) I just can't figure out why he wouldn't rather spend time with his old man!

When I was his age ... Hmmm... Okay, now I remember! Shoot! Why did I have to do that? All kidding aside, I am glad that he has found himself a girlfriend and chosen well. All to often teenagers choose the wrong friends and pay dearly for that but I am fortunate that he and his sister have always (well almost always!) wisely chosen who to spend time with. She is a well mannered young lady who has strong convictions in life and is very respectful and approachable. As a vegan, she also is very careful as to what she eats. This should be quite interesting since my son is the pickiest eater I have ever know as all he appears to like is Pizza!

We are happy for the both of them and so I guess you can say that his mother and I like her.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Walking The Aisles of a Grocery Store

I had just arrived at the grocery store last night when I came across an old high school friend who I had not seen in probably close to a year. She and her twin sister and I used to run on the same high school cross country team for four years and during that time, I was one of the few who could tell them apart. It wasn’t until last night however, that I was informed that I had been calling them by the wrong names for the past number of years. It seems that my ability to tell them apart had disappeared over time. Yah I know… memory and time does some crazy things to you!

Anyways, back on track!

It was great running across her last night as we spent at least twenty minutes reminiscing. We then waved our goodbyes and headed onto our own trails around the grocery store. By the time I made it to the checkout line, I ran across her at least three times after that and each time we waved and said “hi.” It got pretty funny and it got to the point that I would look for her each time while turning into different aisles. By the time it was over, we probably spent an additional seven or eight minutes more in conversation and laughter.

Now, that was okay since we enjoyed each other’s company… but what about that person who you don’t really have anything in common with and would have been happy enough to simply smile and share no more than a two minute conversation with by asking how the kids, spouse and job was?

Have you ever been in that situation before? You enter the grocery store and run head on into a casual acquaintance who you know just enough to nod and ask how the family is and then you see them every aisle you turn into? You don’t really want to converse with them beyond the first time and yet you don’t want to be ignorant and simply ignore them.

It never fails… It seems like every time I go to the grocery store, I run across someone who fits that category of the “casual acquaintance.” I speak to them and ask the socially acceptable questions, move on my way and them run into them in the produce aisle. What do you say? “Hey, look, prunes are on sale!” Then again in the juice aisle with a bottle of prune juice in your hands... “Yep, I’ve been pretty irregular lately!” A few minutes later in the Cereal aisle… “Yah, 100% Bran is my favorite cereal!”

It gets to the point that you feel that you have to scope out every aisle before making your turn. Now I have gotten to be pretty good at mastering the skill of avoidance but what about when you are trying to avoid two people? You might as well give up and go home!

Now, there was a time when I ran across my sister but that was no big deal right? Well for her it was! By the time I had passed her in about every aisle, I had snuck enough extra food into her cart to feed another family. She later discovered it all in the busy checkout line. She has yet to forgive and forget!

Being the Christmas season however, I plan to mend my ways and become more of a conversationalist in the aisles because it is the season of merriment. I will become a new man… at least until the end of the month.

Who knows… maybe it will be me over the holidays that everyone else will be avoiding!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas Tree Time

So... Today was the day to get the Christmas tree! We have always cut down our own tree as the store bought artificial ones were never realistic enough for us and the store bought live one's were too dry and died too soon. I was once too lazy pressed for time and bought an almost dead a live precut tree from the nearest tree lot. Well... the family was not amused as the evidence of my misdoings were all over the carpet the following morning! How was I to know that all the needles were to fall in under 24 hours?!? So, I quickly learned my lesson and since then, have headed out to the fields to but a real live uncut one!

This year was no exception.

This morning, we departed with saw in hand and headed to our favorite lot. When we got there, the car lot was almost full to the hilt and we knew right there and then that locating that perfect 2.4 metre (8 foot for the metrically challanged!) tree would be a challenge in itself.

But success prevailed!

As we looked over the vast field of trees, I discovered that there was a small lot hidden behind the "Do Not Cut These Trees" lot and headed towards it hoping no one would notice. Ducking under the rope, we stealthly made our way in search of the elusive scotch pine. In no time, we selected the tree of our dreams and proceeded to cut it down. A word to the wise ... Always have someone hold the tree as you crawl under it to cut it down! After crawling out from under the tree after it collapsed on top of me, we dragged its sorry trunk a quarter mile to the bagging station. Putting down $40 (Yikes!) we loaded it onto the car and headed home.

So ... We got our tree with little or no fanfare.

Later on today, I will bring the tree into the house and stick it in the corner. It is now the job of the family to trim it with the decorations. This part is not for me as every year I touch the needles without gloves I break out in this terrible rash... At least that is what I tell the family! Besides... they love doing it anyways!


Friday, December 07, 2007

Did You Ever Wonder... ?

Did you ever wonder about things?

Throughout our lives, we involve ourselves in various topics of conversation, we take a multitude of things for granted, we assume more than we can imagine and we presume to know about things which we are totally ignorant about and it never occurs to us that we are like this!

Now I am not being judgmental here as I am one of these people. Now if you "know everything" then maybe you can be of some help to me... maybe to all of us others for that matter.

The other day, I asked Google what a Wonder Question was and in about 0.04 seconds (Wow!) it led me to 9,420,000 instances on the Net where I could possibly answer my question.

So... What is a wonder question? Good question!

A Wonder Question is simply a question that starts with "I wonder.... ." Wow! How deep and philosophical!!

Now, when you think about it, there are many things in life that we take for granted and yet very few of those things do we really understand. Take the following question for example... "Why is ocean water salty?" Heck if I know! What about this one... "Why do bottles have different shapes?" Or.... "Why is the engine of an automobile usually up front?"

There are no doubt millions of things we take for granted that we understand and therefore just as many Wonder Questions and if we really didn't have a life, we could take the time to find the answers to a few thousand of them in a lifetime... not much more than that though, I imagine!

So.... How much do you know??

Below are a few questions that I have... Anybody know the answers to them?

1. Was the “apple” in the Garden of Eden really an apple?
2. Why do bottles have different shapes?
3. What makes popcorn pop?
4. What are dog days?
5. Why is ocean water salty?
6. Why does an aircraft carrier float and a penny sink?
7. Can a person get warts from handling a toad?
8. Why are dried grapes called raisins?
9. Why were some of the early bridges in America covered?
10. What is the Coriolis force?

So… only answer these questions if you have the time or have no life. If you are anything like me I imagine I won’t be hearing back from you anywhere in the near future!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mysterious Vials

Yesterday morning, we discovered two brown glass vials of liquid on my son's dresser in his bedroom. There was no identifying label on it or the name of any manufacturer. I held it up to the light hoping to determine the colour of the liquid but was unable to do so due to the colour of the glass. Now, we have never known our son to take drugs and the chance that it was an illegal substance was not high on the list but, as a parent, you never discount anything no matter how much you trust your children. There is always a first and we all as parents, hope that their first would always be their last. After careful consideration, my first thought about the vial was that it was a prescription type medicine that came in a lager box with a number of similar vials in it since there was no identification on the glass. I thought that maybe he had simply found these vials or was holding them for someone else. We would have immediately asked him about these vials but he was at work at the time.

Considering that they also might be toxic in nature, I decided to put them in a safe place for the time being. Ironically, I broke one of them in the process and spilled it all over my hands. Now I was plagued with the problem that my skin may have absorbed this substance. I washed it off as soon as I could. Now that that glass had been opened, we could smell the liquid. I thought it smelled like vanilla. His mother thought it smelled like licorice.

The rest of my day was spent in worry. Not because of the possibility of it being drugs as much as it being toxic. I was worried about what now inhabited my body. I wanted to take it to a pharmacist for identification but I also needed to protect my son as he, as far as I was concerned, was innocent until proven guilty. After all, he hadn't hid it from us and, in my estimation, hadn't done anything wrong.

So... Five hours later...

I picked up my son from work and immediately asked him as to what was in those brown vials.

Ginseng extract!

And so, I now owe him 4 dollars for breaking one of the vials he had bought from the health food store! I apologized for breaking it. He shook his head, smiled and called me clumsy!

All in a day's work as a parent!