The Smoke Stacks that Changed Our Lives

The Smoke Stacks that Changed Our Lives

The view of the hydro stacks of the Nanticoke plant from the pier in Port Dover, seconds before they fell on Februray 28, 2018.

With giant windmills surrounding them, the two smokestacks of Ontario Hydro’s Nanticoke plant didn’t seem as big today as they once did, but they have certainly dominated the area around them for most of the last half century.  Not only did they change the landscape of the north shore of Lake Erie but for most who lived and moved here their presence changed the landscape of our lives.  Then, at 11 am this morning, in less than 10 seconds, they were gone.  (Watch the CBC account of the event)

I stood on the Port Dover pier to watch with some ladies who have recently moved here and recounted some of the ways those stacks had changed the lives of the people who in the town.

As communities we were impacted in a big way.  The steel plant and refinery which were to join the hydro plant, along with the super city (which never happened), meant homes and farms and families were displaced.  Some of those families had been on their land for about 100 years.  The roads changed.  The skyline changed.  The night sky was suddenly interrupted with big blasts of flame from the steel mill.

When I was in grade 11, my classmate, Gary Misner (of the fishing Misner’s) gave a passionate and angry presentation on the proposed plant.  He warned that it would raise water temperatures by four degrees and ruin the fishing industry as we knew it.  There wasn’t the environmental concern then, but it didn’t take long to realize those two streaks of yellow soot that moved across the sky from the stacks would also leave their mark.

The super city of Townsend never happened though the shell of it remains.  Growth however did happen, especially in Port Dover and Caledonia.  Houses popped up like mushrooms and new people moved into our towns.

The economy of the area changed drastically too.  People who were graduating high school had a whole new prospect for jobs and were earning what seemed to be very big money for labour jobs in the plants.  It was something new for the hard-working blue-collar types.   Before then the only prospects for jobs were in low paying local plants or somewhere in the city.  The rise of the middle class was happening under our feet.  Kids who would have otherwise moved away were able to stay at home.

The raising of those stacks also brought with it changes to personal life.  People who were from outside the area were moving in and love stories which never would have happened otherwise were taking place.  One woman I know wrote every parts order for those smoke stacks.  She moved to an apartment just down the street from my grandparent’s home.  If she hadn’t come to the area, she and my Dad would never have met and I might never have had a stepmother.  I’m certain there are hundreds of similar love stories to tell because of those stacks.

A little lump rose in my throat this morning as I watched for ten short seconds as those structures and all they represent evaporated into a cloud of dust, making way for whatever life changers are now in store.


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Spring Haiku

peeking throughWarm and sunny day

Plants emerging,  muddy shoes

Pretending at spring

I was struggling with my word press site so lost everything.  This is a quick replacement.  spring stream

A traditional Japanese haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Often focusing on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression.Mar 1, 2016
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Green Drinks and Other Diet Stuff

greenstuffAnyone who knows me, knows diets have been a huge part of my life for many years and not always with many results.  I haven’t tried any of the great fad diets for quite a while and was just trying to eat sensibly but I recently ran across one which appealed to me.

Even if I’m not losing weight, it got me off sugar without too much pain and now that I’m more used to it I’m actually enjoying food again.

The biggest problem for me with most diets is all I can do is think about what I’m missing out on.  When I’m obsessed with food I just want to eat more.  It doesn’t really matter what diet anyone is on as long as they are eating things which promote good health.

Over the past few years, I had drifted away from some of my good eating habits because I lived with someone who could eat anything and everything and never gain or lose an ounce.  Now I have to retrain my eating habits and learn all over again how to cook and shop with fewer carbs and less sugar if I don’t want to join that growing number of people with diabetes.  It’s just no longer an option.

This green concoction in the glass might become one of my favorites.  Cucumber, spinach, protein powder and blueberries with coconut milk.  It would never have crossed my radar if I hadn’t bought a new cookbook.  I’ve never been a big fan of the green powder stuff because it tasted like I eating cow food.  I actually wonder if our stomachs are even made to digest it.  I only have one stomach and the cow has three.

There are a host of new things to try and the food is a bit of an adventure at the moment.  I think I am beginning to enjoy cooking again after almost two years of trying to work through how to cook for one.  It just didn’t seem worth the trouble to cook anymore but now I’m taking some time for me and acting like I’m  worth the trouble.  I think to find value in things we do for ourselves may be one of the hardest things women alone have to learn.

I’m off to make paprika chicken and creamy Brussel sprouts for tonight.

What is your big food challenge and how are you overcoming it?

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Thoughts and Prayers – Does it Help?

Child's hands folded together in prayer. Black and white photoWhile thoughts and prayers aren’t what Americans need from politicians empowered to prevent heartbreak like this, they do provide a necessary human emotional exchange for both the person expressing them and those receiving them. Grieving families draw love and strength from the thoughts and prayers of others.  United Church Observer article, Thoughts and prayers’ now have a bad rap, thanks to U.S. politicians by Jackie Gillard.

The mentioned article above is a good read.  Please take the time.  

What a shame that prayer has been given such a bad rap.  I cannot imagine life without prayer and I’m certain, as is the writer of the article, that families draw strength and hope from the prayers of others.

Of late I have been taking a supplement which seemed to help me, but it was a little out of my budget, so I stopped taking it.  Within a week I knew all too well that this vitamin had been revolutionizing how I felt both physically and emotionally but because it had happened slowly I didn’t notice.

Prayer is sort of like vitamins.  You don’t really know how much good they are doing unless you stop taking them and even then, it’s not certain.  I for one, don’t want them to stop so I find out that they really were doing amazing things for me, for my family and for the world.

There is much to support the power of prayer.  I could almost guarantee unity of thought and the power of faith-based prayers have an energy which is measurable, and which transform vibrations in the air.  There may even be science to back this up, but I know it because I have experienced it.

As a parent who has lost a teenager tragically I know the prayers of the people around me held me up.  People didn’t understand my pain, they could only imagine.  Some judged the circumstance and believe me I felt that vibration when I walked into a room or down the street and was met by it.  So, also, I felt the vibration of love and support by many more.

Through all my pain a group of women in my church, made a pact to pray for me. Each day one of them would call and talk for a while and offer to say a prayer with me.  It went on for about three months as I recall and that and other prayers I know were being offered on our behalf, were the things that kept us moving through life when all within us seemed to want to quit.  Even now, when I post about Bryan’s birthday or the anniversary of his death which are the hardest days of the year even 18 years later, I gain great hope and strength from the kindness of those who just send a heart.  I know, that for a moment in time the energy which might try to destroy me, is rattled by the love of someone who cares.

Please don’t stop praying and holding people who need support in your thought.  It is the invisible force which moves mountains, changes hearts, clears obstacles and sustains life.  It is the most positive power that we humans have. It is love in action.

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Helpless No More

nra-discountsUntil now I’ve stayed relatively quiet about gun control in the US.  It is a huge issue and one which evokes strong emotion from those who believe they should be able to carry guns (though I’m in the dark why).  It is also something over which I have very little control, that is until today when I saw this list.  I do have control over who I do business with and the people I do business also have control over who they do business with.  It’s time to put the pressure on the only place that seems to matter to the US.  Their pockets.

Only one of those is a company I do business with on a regular basis but I order from another company which does buiness with some of these.  I have sent them a letter asking them to withdraw their support from FedEx et al.   Just my voice will not mean much but collectively, as Canadians we can have an impact.  Please join me in boycotting these companies which support the National Rifle Association in the US.


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Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies

[Jack] tried to convey the compulsion to track down and kill that was swallowing him up.

“I went on. I thought, by myself—”

The madness came into his eyes again.

“I thought I might kill.” (3.37-40)

William Golding, Lord of the Flies

Yes, this madness betook me today.  It began last night when I sat, trying to read and the enemy swarmed and buzzed around my head.  Then again, this morning, I twitched with anger as I created killer concoctions and plotted evil revenge on these creatures of death which set to control and abuse me.  I searched for answers to rid myself of their plague and even resorted to enlisting allies for the battle.  At last the weaponry and the tactic became clear. There was no way to eliminate them completely, but I would take on all I could see and ready myself for the next wave.

Last night I had tried to lure them to their death with sweetness.  They were supposed to be victims of the goo that was prepared to swallow them and hold them fast, so they could not move but it only attracted a few and their recruits kept coming faster than I could catch the first.

The long steel rod was ready for action.  It’s source of power was set and at the push of a button the foe would be momentarily vanquished. I knew there would be replacements within minutes, but I was ready for the onslaught. Now I sit at the ready until their numbers become too much to bear and I must strike again.

And so, it begins with a roar and the tapping of steel against glass.  The creatures are sucked into a cyclone and find themselves disintegrated into pieces of dust as the weapon roars and groans to a stop awaiting the next attack.

In other words, I plugged in the vacuum cleaner and sucked up all the flies that were buzzing around my head and window.  The rest of you may be enjoying this spring weather but in this old house where I live the warmth has quite literally brought the flies out of the woodwork.

Last night I tried the fly catcher method and finally hung one right inside the lamp.  I just wanted to read my book, but they kept buzzing about my head and banging themselves into the sides of lamp shade with so much force that it startled me.

There is a concoction of sweet vinegar sitting on the desk in hopes of catching them, but it doesn’t seem to attract house flies as well as it does fruit flies.  The swatter only makes nasty marks on the wall which will require soap and water scrubbing.  I have decided the only hope is to just sit here with the vacuum by my side and turn it on every few minutes to take another 50 to their death.

If you have any sure-fire methods of getting rid of the flies that gather around the windows and lights of old houses, please let me know before I go completely mad.

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One Lump or Two – The Fine Art of the Trusseau Tea


In a recent blog I wrote about “Rituals” and suggested it might become the theme of a series…and so, it now has.  

A friend and I were giggling the other day about some of the great traditions and rituals of our youth and we landed with delight on the lost art of the Trousseau Tea.

As I child I had the pleasure of attending several of these because my father had younger cousins.  This meant that every year or two one of those cousins would be getting married.  Because I was her only grandchild my grandmother, a great fan of etiquette, felt it important for me to tag along and see how things were done.

The months and weeks of preparation for the great event included several rounds of bridal showers and the unveiling of bridal wear and gifts at the trousseau tea.

It was usually held the Saturday preceding the wedding and was an event exclusively for women though the father of the bride might make a short appearance.  The invitees included those who would be attending the wedding but also many who had not made the guest list who were important to the family but could not be fit into the wedding roster.  They might be some neighbours, ladies from the church and distant relatives.

All wedding gifts had to be purchased and delivered to the bride’s home prior to this date and any of the gift givers who didn’t have them there would feel shame and disgrace.  I remember a great furor when Eaton’s delivered Grandma’s gift to cousin Pat in Toronto.  It was broken.  The men had to make a quick trip to the Eaton’s store downtown to find a suitable replacement for the lamp before the tea started at two and I’m sure Eaton’s felt the force of my grandmother’s wrath.

The trusseau I recall best was that of cousin Ann.  Grandma and I travelled to her sister’s home in Leaside the night before by bus and Aunt Myrtle picked us up at the bus.  We then took another city bus to her home.  That in itself was an event for me.

The event involved the entire house.  In the bedrooms or recreation rooms the gifts were carefully displayed with gift cards showing what came from whom.  It was a bit of a contest to have the best gift.  Duplicates, which always seemed to come in things like toasters and irons, were placed as far away from one anther as possible.  Wedding gifts and shower gifts were never in the same space.  There was a bit of an unspoken contest amongst the gift givers as to who gave the best gifts.

Another room would be devoted to the bride’s trousseau.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, that is the clothing she would take into the marriage.  It included lovely lingerie, a few new dresses and outfits and the highlight was always the “going away outfit”.  That is the suit she would put on after the wedding party and before the couple made their exit to the honeymoon destination.  That is what she would have on when she threw away the bouquet.  The actual wedding dress, was a well-kept secret to be seen by none until the following Saturday.

The ladies would go to the tea table after viewing the gifts and get their first cup of tea or coffee.  The table was adorned with the finest linen.  There they would be greeted by the honoured women who were “pouring”.  It was a great tribute to be asked to pour and gave status to you in the room.  It was a post you held for about an hour before moving out for the next honoured shift.  Because it was an afternoon event you would be expected to wear a hat.  On the rare occasion that it went past five the hat would be removed.  The finest china teapots or the silver tea service would be freshly polished and ready for the day.   All those little cups and saucers people are now trying to get rid of on the internet were held daintily and with regard for the label on the bottom.  Once in a while you would see someone trying to sneak a peak at the name of the china manufacturer.

The next stop was sitting in the next available empty seat in the parlour.  This is when my serving abilities were given the test.  At about age 10, I was instructed to serve sandwiches three times and sweets twice.  Between the sandwiches and sweets, I could ask the lady if she wanted another tea and would have to be careful to find out if she preferred one lump or two of sugar.   The trick was remembering who had had what, but I was pretty good at it.  When the tea was gone, and the sweets were daintily devoured the lady knew it was time to move on and out to make room for the next visitors.  It was a polite and gracious way to keep the traffic flowing and keep anyone from trying to visit too long.  No one overate, and no one dominated the conversation at the event.

I have wonderful memories of the very special events which promoted good manners and good taste.  I can still smell the coffee and taste the petit fours.

What are some of the great memories of social rituals that you have?  Please share.








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Family Day – I Was Curious


What in the world is Family Day anyway?

There doesn’t seem to be much information about how this day got started but the Wikipedia information suggests Canada was the first to initiate a Family Day though Alberta was the first outside of the US.  Nevada initiated a family day in the 70’s the day after the American Thanksgiving and Alberta started the trend to the February date in 1990.

Ontario, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick also celebrate the day on the third Monday of February, while in British Columbia, Family Day falls on the second Monday of February.  Surprisingly the other provinces and territories do not take part so my notion that it is a national holiday went out the window along with thought of it being a statutory holiday.

In our Ontario celebration we also join the United States as they celebrate Presidents Day.  I’m sure there are some advantages to having it at the same time for those who are still inclined to cross the border. (No wall on our side yet.)  It is also very nice for school children who have not had a holiday in over six weeks and it certainly breaks up that very long stretch between Christmas and Easter.  Schools get March break, but it doesn’t apply to the rest of the working world and it is a very long haul, especially when Easter is later, between the holidays.

Who else but Canadians would think it is fun to have a holiday in the dead of winter?  Of course, we can find things to do in the cold.  We love the snow and it is a playground for many.  There is also lots to do inside this time of year including a new blockbuster Marvel movie this week.  One young couple I knew a few years ago decided it was a good weekend for a sweetheart get away to start a family.  It makes me wonder what the birth rate stats are nine months after this long weekend.

This is the 10th year for Family Day in Ontario.  I hope you enjoy every minute of it.  Let me know what you are doing to celebrate.

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We Need More True Ritual in Life

Lent meditation

Knox Presbyterian church in Port Dover is not where I usually attend but a friend invited me to experience their Lenten Meditation there yesterday and it is one of the most meaningful things I’ve done in a long time.  Besides the blessing that came with the actual ritual, I also left with the knowing that I need more real ritual in my life.

There are lots of little every day rituals in my life.  The very act of getting up and making my tea and reading Facebook before I leave for work at 6:30 is a ritual I have grown to enjoy.  Somewhere around mid morning when the things that must be done are done I have a coffee ritual.  I grind the coffee, make it my French press and sit to enjoy it while I write in my journal.  I also have a bedtime ritual which includes some essential oils and a bedtime story from an app I have on my phone.

All of these make life better.  It is a time when simplicity brings security to the day and reason to the movements of life.

But this ritual I experienced yesterday had more depth than those sorts of rituals.  Because I am a churchgoer I am privy to more ritual than many and I love those things which are not only constant, but which bring reverence into my life.  Things like communion and baptisms.

It seems the only real rituals we celebrate any more outside of church are marriage and funerals.  Even those have lost much of their depth in the past few years.  An expensive party has replaced the importance of vows and the meaning of sharing life together.  Throwing ashes to the wind in a private service has taken the place of offering the community an opportunity to share our grief.  We just don’t seem to like the tough things any more.  We don’t take time for reverence and deep contemplation.

Those who meditate have some concept of this wonderful life of ritual and deep thought.  Our aboriginal brothers and sisters celebrate some wonderful ceremonies in their everyday lives.  Things which remind them they are not the centre of the universe but rather part of a bigger picture.  A simple smudge ceremony brings their reason for being to the forefront of their day.

We have all but lost religion in our society, and I am among the first to celebrate that.  I am much more a proponent of faith than I am of religion, but I am saddened that with that loss we have also lost much of the ritual which connected us to the Creator and to each other in a holy and loving way.

As a spiritual director I have begun to learn a few rituals which I can share with others when we meet, and I hold those small things in high regard.  The simple lighting of a candle and a moment or two of quiet can change the mood and expectation of a gathering of minds.

Are there any rituals that you loved and now miss?  Are there any that you have added to your life that you can share?  Would you like to explore some rituals with me?  This may become a series of sorts, as I discover more possibilities for ritual and meditative practice.

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It’s Not All Hearts and Flowers

My tulips from T

As I sat here writing this blog there was a soft tap on my door and in through the sunshine came a sweet young woman I have gotten to know over the past two years.  In her hand she held this sweet collection of pink tulips for me.  Attached was a note thanking me for being her friend.  It is amazing how little it takes to turn a dreary day into one filled with sunshine. (The picture I had originally posted is now at the bottom of the blog.)

It is wonderful that we have a day set aside to celebrate love.  There is always a little excitement in the air on Valentines Day.  Now people take extra time to send wishes to friends through social media.  It is sort of like the grown-up version of the little valentine cards we used to have in school.  It is sweet and kind.

While it is a great day for lovers and friends (and my friend the florist) it can also be a day filled with loneliness and regret.

I used to despise “Hallmark Holidays” but I’ve mellowed a bit.  They have their place but like all good things they also have a down side.  There are people who may be alone, who have lost their sweethearts for various reasons or who have fond memories of family on this day but are now separated from them for various reasons.

On this special day (and every Hallmark Holiday) if you have people around you who have given you a little extra love I would challenge you to take some time to reach out to those who may be alone or struggling.  It is important to let those who are close to us know we love them but it also important to care for a world that hurts and needs a little encouragement and care.


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