Sunday Breakfast with Grandma

Many of my blog memories include my grandmother.

She was a remarkable woman and a great influence on my life. Life’s best memories include her. Sunday morning breakfast is no exception.

After church on Sunday was perhaps one of the most relaxed times in my Grandmother’s home. She loved to cook for a crowd and get fancy but on Sunday after church the fare was simple and easy. Meals took place in the kitchen rather than at the formal dining table. It was a no fuss, no muss kind of time. You could count on either simple salmon sandwiches or scrambled eggs and toast with homemade jam.

There are a few things I was able to get from her home and some of them are precious heirloom dishes but the one which is perhaps most important to me is the single dish from her “everyday dishes”.

Grandma had fine china for the big dinners but the everyday dishes, kept in the kitchen cupboard, were not considered special even though they were Royal Doulton China – the “Orchid” pattern. A little research places it at about circa 1930 which is about the time my grandparents moved to Port Dover. I can only guess it must have been purchased then or when they were married a few years earlier.

Orchids were my Grandmas favorite flower. How appropriate that it was on the dishes to be shared with those included in her most intimate moments in the kitchen.

This morning as I made a quick and easy breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast I could feel her soft touch on my shoulder as I placed my meal on that one special plate. Sweet memories flooded my heart.

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Living with depression and anxiety for most of my life and adding to that some major “failures” in life like failed relationships and being overweight, there are many days I don’t want to look in the mirror. It’s a constant striving in my walk on this earth to feel valuable. Continue reading

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Trading Weapons for Tools – Older Men and Suicide Deaths with Guns

Living in rural Ontario gives a bit of a feeling of safety from the terrors of the big city but a recent study about suicide deaths caused by guns has left me concerned for the older men of my otherwise tranquil community. One incentive now being used around the world, called “The Men’s Shed” may be the answer if some local men would like a good project.

Guns have always made me nervous but they are a pretty normal part of rural life. If you don’t own one yourself you likely know someone who does. They are used by many with great care during the hunting seasons for duck, deer and turkey in my area of Ontario. Some of the guys take off for week long trips further north to hunt moose but most just find a good wood lot and hunt near home. The guns also come in handy when there is a coyote stealing the chickens or a rabid racoon on the farm.

Having worked in mental health for almost 30 years and having people I loved die by suicide has made me an advocate for suicide prevention. I knew that older men were the fastest growing high risk group for suicide. That has been so for many years, but when the idea took on the number of over 1800 in 15 years in Ontario I was shocked and left wondering what could be done to stop this.

Suicide education is certainly a factor and if those who know the signs pay attention closely they can often intervene.

Lack of service in rural Ontario has always been a problem. Those of us working in peer support in rural Southern Ontario call our area the “Black Hole of Mental Health.” It is close enough to large centres that it is not eligible for any of the grants given for remote areas but not close enough to take advantage of the prevention services of the large centres.

One organizatioin which seems to making an impact for change is Men’s Shed. The one discussed on the CBC Current broadcast is in Saskatchewan but there are several in Canada and the movement began in 2007 in Australia. In these organizations men work with their hands alongside one another to support their mental health issues. Woodworking, cooking and bike repairs are part of the program but I suspect it could involve any sort of hands on work which may support the community as well as the men who are doing it.

Men are at the highest risk for suicide and whether you blame it on society or on hormones, it is easy to see that men don’t like seeking help or talking about their issues. My own experience confirms that. Women are much quicker to seek help.

Dr. Allison Crawford who works in the field was also on the CBC show and commented that while women work well with their mental health issues “face to face” men do better when they work “shoulder to shoulder”. That is why the concept of The Shed works better for men.

I would happily help with the beginnings of such a group in my community but I think it is the men who need to grab on to the concept and support one another. This would be a great way to spend some seed money which may be available for mental health supports. Learn more about how to start a Men’s Shed by visiting their website.

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Lonely Sunday

Sunday can be a lonely day at the best of times but with lock downs and social distancing there are many who find the day almost unbearable. This past Sunday I decided to tackle my own loneliness with an open Zoom call and had some positive response.

I’m not sure why Sunday seems to be so lonely but I believe it is, in large part, that it has traditionally been very much a “family day”. For those of us who are older this may be more of an issue than for the younger folks who don’t remember stores being closed on Sunday or going to Church regularly.

In my childhood Sunday meant lots of great things. Some times it was lunch after church at a friends or salmon sandwiches at Grandma’s. More recently it has meant lunch with someone special or a group of friends. We aren’t even able to go to church now but I miss lunch way more than I do church in these days of COViD distance. (Have to admit I really miss the singing though.)

Sometimes as a child, Sunday meant short trips to visit relatives. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins gathered and that always meant fun and food. Lots of food. Very good food.

Sunday has always been a fairly quiet day for me. I grew up as an only child so if it wasn’t spent with family away it was often spent quietly with books and dolls in my room. In the summer it might be spent on the beach and as a teenager it was all about water skiing or boys.

It is a day filled with tradition and while I miss the wonderful smells and tastes of the day, what I miss the most is that wonderful assurance of feeling loved. Sunday was like a warm blanket on a cold winter day or someone giving you ginger ale when you were sick. It felt good and filled your heart with the knowing you were truly cared for.

If any of this resonates with you and you would like a little warm companionship on a Sunday please tune in on Sunday, July 19 at 7 pm EST for some conversation and companionship. We will just talk about the stuff that matters to our hearts and maybe have a few laughs together.

Join “Not Alone This Sunday” by copying the link into a browser.

Peggy Guiler is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Not Alone this Sunday
Time: Jul 19, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Grandma’s House Dress

Being stuck at home because of the pandemic has uprooted many peculiar thoughts for me. All this time to reflect has brought things to the surface I haven’t thought of for years. One such memory is of Grandma’s “house dress”. I suddenly felt the need to have such a garment. Yesterday I purchased the closest thing I could find and loved wearing it today.

I could never find a picture of my grandmother in her house dress but I often saw her in one. She owned aprons and would wear them on special occasions over her nice dresses but she much preferred to wear her house dress for doing the daily chores. It was easy to wash and it didn’t matter if she got a little grease splatter or juice on it.

Not to be confused with a housecoat, it was much more versatile. A house coat was for throwing over your nightdress when you got up to go to washroom in the wee hours or to start the coffee and oatmeal in the morning before you changed into day clothes. It was designed basically to get you from the bath the bedroom but would never be something you could answer the door in or wear if a friend came for morning coffee.

The house dress was very versatile. It wasn’t the end of the world to be caught in it if someone came to door unexpectedly and you could hang out the clothes or work in the garden with it on. If you were careful and didn’t have too many dirty chores to do, it would last until before supper when you changed into clothes for eating with your husband. He didn’t see you in the house dress too often but if he did he wouldn’t mind much. Canning season was very hard on it but it always meant extra laundry anyway so a house dress in with the tea towels and rags was not a big hardship.

If you were especially careful with it you might get a week out of it which was good because you only had two or three. Though they were not very expensive your clothes came out of the household expenses each week. Saving for another house dress would take away from little luxuries like silk stockings and tea at the church bazaar.

Now as I put on more appropriate attire for an evening with a few friends around the fire I can throw my nice jersey dress on a hook in the closet where it will sit until morning when I can through it on again for breakfast on the porch. The only thing it lacks is pockets and the wonderful smell of Grandma’s kitchen.


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An Adventure in Communication


It was 1973 in an Ontario Community College

“They fired one of our best teachers,” was the cry from a group of students who landed in the offices of the Student’s Union . The teacher was one of the French speaking staff in a bilingual college. My Francophone friends pointed out it was not easy to find French speaking teachers with this man’s qualifications and ability to teach fairly and compassionately. He was top notch and they felt he had been discriminated against for expressing his opinion about an issue he and many other staff had with college administration.

As the Director of Communications for the Student’s Union I suddenly found myself in the role of press liaison, negotiator and one of the leaders, albeit instigators, of a walkout which involved 30,000 full and part time students on ten campuses throughout the Ottawa Valley. When a government funded college loses one day worth of grants for that many students they pay attention.

It was a grueling time of meetings, interviews and press releases. I cannot share all the ins and outs of the negotiations about our student demands but I can share the final result. Sadly the teacher was not reinstated but our other demands for increased communication with students were met. One of those demands was for a committee to investigate and report on the communication needs within the college community.

The Communication Committee was composed of about eight people including governors, department heads, staff and a student. It was my great privilege to serve with this very devoted and concerned group who sincerely wanted to improve the flow of information within the college. Together we took on the “Howard Hughesian seclusion” the Board of Governors had been accused of displaying.

It was a great adventure for me and was probably the very first time I felt like a peer in an “adult” forum. People listened to what I had to say with respect and took it seriously. I believe I may have been the first student in Ontario to sit on a college, Board of Governors committee.

After several months of work researching, interviewing and fine tuning an extensive report the committee’s report on Communication was presented and accepted in whole by the college Board of Governors and the Student’s Union.

The result was: two student seats on the College Board of Governors; a student representative on every college committee; two students on every hiring and firing committee: and the creation of a weekly, bilingual college newspaper to be administered by the Student’s Union.

The experience was not my first trip into advocacy and not my last but it cemented in me, the underlying need of every individual and group who is marginalized and feels unheard to be included and listened to. It also made me understand some of the struggles of bias and bigotry experienced by French Canadians in that time.

My training and work as a journalist taught me to listen not to just words but to the situation, the body language and even to what was not said. Over the years I have done much learning and teaching on the subject of communication, particularly in the mental health field.

A Course in Communication

As a prepare to create a short on-line course in communication and listening skills I revisit this moment of my past as my great teacher in learning that skill myself. I have not mastered it by a long shot and I often fail to hear what people are really saying.

I have also learned through 30 years of teaching adults in the art of communication that the teacher always learns more than the student. If you would like to learn with me and think you may benefit from such a course let me know.

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The Things My Mother Did

Mom and I circa 1960It’s Mother’s Day weekend and I seem to be particularly nostalgic today. I couldn’t help but think of some of the things my Mom used to do that I don’t usually have to do any more.  While making the bed I thought about the way she used to fold the pillows in half lengthwise by slamming her forearm in to the soft feathers.  Then it would be neatly placed at the top of the bed.  The chenille bedspread would be tucked in around it so it looked perfect and round like one of those fancy rolled pillows some people had on their couches.  We weren’t fancy but we were neat.

Laundry prompted another set of memories.  I didn’t have to use the old wringer like she did for so many years. I’m blessed.  For a long time we went without a washer and I don’t ever recall having a dryer.  After our washer broke down we spent many years running to the laundromat but Mom was thrifty and we always came home to hang the clothes on the line rather than spend 30 cents to dry three loads.

Early in life the clothes line became my job.  It was cold because it was on the lake bank. Sometimes the clothes would come in and pretty much stand up by themselves.  They would then get thrown over the clothes horse which was placed not too close to the gas heater.  It stood in the centre of the house between the living room and kitchen area and was our main source of heat.  Central heating was then standing in the centre of the house with your butt to the stove to warm up in  the morning.

But back to laundry.  Today I had to iron some hankies.Ironing Hankies

Yes I bought hankies.  It’s my next step in my attempt at saving the planet.

Anyway, as I dug out the iron for the first time in two years I remembered some important things about the process.  I really wished I had a coke bottle and one of those little sprinkler tops Mom used to have so I could wet down the material before I pressed it.  (Great little gadget.  They had a cork that fit in the top of a pop bottle and a plastic spout with little holes so water would sprinkle onto the clothes without soaking them. If anyone knows where I can find one please let me know.)

After sprinkling the clothes they were carefully wrapped in tea towels and left to stand for a bit until you had time to iron them.  On a good day they got done quickly but if it was a busy day they might have to be redone the next day. Heaven forbid  they were left for two or three days because the risk of mold was high.

It wasn’t just hankies that were ironed. Everything was pressed.  All our material was natural fibre.  Anything considered “linen”, along with blouses, shirts , pants and skirts all had to be ironed.  I even remember pressing bras and panties.  The sheets, tablecloths, tea towels, hankies and pillow cases all had to be neatly pressed.  Hankies couldn’t get starch because it made them rough so they were a little trickier to get perfect. 

It took me ten minutes to iron eight hankies.  I hope the planet is happy.  Sweet memories of Mom wafted through the air with the steam rising from the ironing board.  There is no  other smell like it.

Usually on Mother’s Day I’m thinking about flowers.  We didn’t turn to the florist much in those days.  On Mother’s Day though, you had to have flowers and Mom usually managed to find some that would suit the need in the garden.  She would pin forsythia to my dress.  I could wear a colour because my mother was alive.  On her own dress she would pin a few lily of the valley she snipped from Aunt Betty’s garden next door.  Her own Mother had died when Mom was only 16.  If your Mother was gone you wore white flowers to honour her and, I think, so everyone knew not to ask how your Mother was.

Each generation has memories of things they did the next generation knows nothing about.  What are some of the memories you have of tasks and traditions your children will never experience?


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Mob Mentality and Corrupt Leadership – An Old Story, A Current Reality

53470705-crown-of-thorns-with-blood-dripping-christian-concept-of-suffering-The story of the crucifixion of Jesus is a great one even if you don’t believe and in this time of polarized thought and mass hysteria it is well worth contemplating.

As I read over the scripture in Luke (Holy Bible: Luke 22 and 23) on this Good Friday I was struck by the wishy -washy attitude of leaders and their willingness to succumb to pleasing the crowd rather than doing what was right.

The crowd was willing to sacrifice an innocent rather than allow justice to fall on the guilty.  Their anger was not about justice, it was about not getting their own way.  The mob lost all perspective in the heat of the moment. They believed every lie they had been told by a group of jealous and fearful men whose concern was that Jesus was about to usurp their power.  Power mongering and mob mentality provoked the murder of an innocent.

In this day of difficulty, where thoughts are polarized and where being popular is more important than being right are you being swallowed into a mob mentality?  Are you more concerned with justifying your point of view than you are with reality?  Will you allow innocents to suffer without examining and seeking out the truth?

History has seen it over and over but perhaps in our Western minds the most predominant examples are the Holocaust, the devastation of the North American aboriginal cultures and the slave trade.

If  you don’t think we are capable of unjust, mob mentality, then think again.

Bible: Luke 22 and 23

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Imagine My Surprise …

Anam CaraImagine my surprise when a friend, who appears to have disdain for my faith, reached out to me with consolation and love, to comfort me about a loss, with the words of one of my favourite “Christian”, albeit Godly, authors.

First I want to thank my friend for her care and kindness but also for allowing me to get a glimpse of her heart which may not be so far from the faith I hold as we both may have believed.

Thanks to her also, because for the past hour I have been listening to the mystical words and magical voice of author and poet John O’Donohue being interviewed by Canadian broadcaster Mary Hines in 2004.  His voice alone could soothe most troubled souls with the heavy Irish accent and soft manner but his words truly bring peace to the broken hearts.

The first thing I ever read of O’Donahue’s was Anam Cara and it became the standard or foundation for my work as a Spiritual Director.  In fact the symbol of the Anam Cara which appears on the cover of that book is the symbol I use for an article on my website and on a Facebook site I call, “Considering the Divine”.  It is the symbol on the cross which is my favourite piece of jewelry.  It is a symbol which holds the deep meaning of the holy relationships we have with one another when we acknowledge the presence of the Divine.

Different things reach out from books, articles and broadcasts to all of us.  Each time I read or hear O’Donohue I hear a different truth, a deeper truth.  Today, because my friend was trying to comfort my grief I heard the author talking about how people “die when they are truly born” and that “our nearest neighbours are the dead”.    He even dared to suggest we should pray to the dead for guidance.  This springs from the Celtic and Indigenous notion that our ancestors and those we have loved are available to us in every moment of our lives.   In this thought I find great comfort.

In the interview, O’Donohue also talked about the loneliness of the modern spirit and how deeply we need to have friendships and the love of other humans.  In my grief I know too well that loneliness, but in life we have become very solitary creatures which is so contrary to our nature and our innate need for community and closeness.

O’Donohue also spoke of how we long for beauty and it isn’t something we should believe is reserved for the wealthy.  In the past few years I have begun to cultivate my own sense of beauty with an attitude of gratitude for the amazing things within my line of site as well as the beauty deep within my own heart and the hearts of others.

If you have an hour to ponder and just listen quietly without distraction or interruption I would suggest to you, as my friend did for me, that you listen to this heartwarming interview with John O’Donohue and Mary Hines.

If you are interested to learn more about John O’Donohue and the volumes of work he produced in his short life you will find them on his website.  

If you are interested in the ministry of Spiritual Direction (the Anam Cara) please visit my website,  River of Hope Facebook, or Considering the Divine Facebook site.


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Who is the Real Director of Your Life?

spiritualdirectionYears ago when I sought out Spiritual Direction for myself I was a lost and hurting soul.  My family and I had suffered some severe spiritual abuse in a church and then I had fallen victim to a similar hurt in another.  My relationship with God was tenuous and I was angry.  I didn’t want it to be that way because my faith in a creator hadn’t changed but my relationship with the creator certainly was strained.

In the midst of the hurt someone had suggested spiritual direction and by a strange series of “God-incidence” the counselor I was seeing also knew the woman I was going to see as a spiritual director.  It was a wonderful blend of the two supports and I gave them permission to share information so they could give me maximum support.

Between them they did lead to healing and back to seeking the true director of my life and my walk now is much more stable and secure.  I no longer go to a counselor but I have not given up seeing a spiritual director.  It is the one meeting I have each month that I won’t miss.

If you would like to learn more about spiritual direction or any of the other services I offer at River of Hope Enterprises please visit my website or contact me by email or phone.

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