Sunday, 23 April 2017

A HEARTWARMING TALE OF COMPASSION

In desperation, he twisted and turned, attempting to extract his trapped leg. Sapped of energy, over time his efforts weakened. In distress, his mother's high pitched, heart piercing piping sounds increased in intensity. With an evening forecast of high winds and heavy thunder storms, the situation had become dire.

The AEF (American Eagle Foundation) maintains a series of live nest cams across the U.S. Viewed by thousands of followers worldwide are Washington D.C.'S National Arboretum two cams set up in the nest of bald eagle parents, Mr. President and The First Lady and their two, yet to be named eaglets, DC4 and DC5. (www.dceaglecam.com) For many who follow their development from chicks to fledglings, these eaglets become like adopted children.


During the early evening of April 20, as he ventured to the edge of his nest, DC4's right leg became lodged in a hole in the stick rails. Watching the drama unfold were thousands of distressed viewers who began contacting the AEF in unprecedented numbers. So overwhelming was the outpouring of concern for the flailing eaglet that the AEF posted online, "Thank you for the phone calls and emails alerting us to the stuck eaglet in D.C. We are aware and monitoring the situation. We will update as we can".


Three organizations, the AEF, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Sevice, and the National Arboretum, in evaluating the situation, determined that the best course of action would be to rescue the eaglet and have him checked out for injuries. An eagle with a badly injured leg would never be able to survive in the wild. Racing the severe incoming weather, Matt Morrison, a professional arborist, climbed 80 feet to the now heavily swaying nest and freed little DC4. In radio contact with a veterinarian, Mr. Morrison reported that DC4's leg exhibited abrasions and swelling. It was decided to bring the eaglet down to the Maryland Zoo for blood work, X-rays and a total check. The ultimate hope was to return DC4 quickly to his parents and home.


What followed next could not have been written any better. DC4 passed his physical and on April 21st, just 24 hours later, our hero rescuer re-ascended to the 80-foot high nest, announced that "the eagle has landed" and released DC4 to his home.  Before descending, Matt Morrison bent forward, kissed DC4 on the head and....


.... as he began his descent, shook his finger at our little eaglet warning him to "stay away from the nest's edge".


To cap the happy ending, anyone watching the cam that night would have had to smile at DC4 and DC5 as they slept.


One cannot help but be warmed by the love, caring and compassion that took place over these two days. Oh, that we could spread this kindness and goodwill everywhere.















Monday, 17 April 2017

CAN WE ALL JUST TAKE A CHILL PILL

As a child, no boogie-man threatened me from the corners of my room nor did a monster reside under my bed. I was not even conscious of nightmares disturbing my sleep until I was around twelve years of age, but by then those dreams haunted even my daytime thoughts. It was the era of a heated up Cold War, NATO versus the Soviet Union, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was the era in which we worried that a leader's hair trigger madness could launch nuclear armageddon. And it was the era of air raid siren testing and war preparedness rehearsals in school classrooms. Not surprisingly my fertile adolescent imagination became haunted by horrific dreams of war. A recurring night terror found me alone, unable to find to my family as air raid sirens screamed and bombers thundered overhead. With over 10,000 nuclear weapons worldwide and current international conflicts, I can only wonder how my youthful mind would have reacted today.


Assad of Russian-backed Syria dropped sarin-based chemical bombs from war planes on his own citizens. Forever seared onto my brain cells are the horrific images of children gasping for air, foaming at the mouth, choking and writhing. What monster perpetrates such a crime, especially in full knowledge that innocent children will die horrible deaths? Justifiably, our world was outraged. Without any long-range policy in place and against all of his election rhetoric on not allowing the U.S. to remain international policeman, Trump launched a missile strike against the offending Syrian airfield. Now heavily armed U.S. and Russian destroyers patrol the Mediterranean and not in a friendly alliance. What is that old international relations rule about the danger of two opposing super powers filling the same vacuum?

The bombing of the Syrian air base was followed soon after by the dropping of an MOAB in Afghanistan against ISIS. The MOAB, nicknamed by U.S. Forces " The Mother of All Bombs", is the most powerful non-nuclear ordinance used thus far in combat. Its mushroom cloud is visible for 20 miles. At 30 feet in length, weighing in at 21,000 pounds and with 11 tons of pure TNT, the MOAB allowed Trump to live up to his election promise to "bomb the shit out of ISIS". I am not opposed to ridding our world of ISIS, but here's the crunch. Not to be outdone, the Russians announced that they have created "The Father of All Bombs" with 44 tons of pure TNT. Wow! That must be some mushroom cloud! Oh goody, a non-nuclear arms race.


And we mustn't forget the seriously unbalanced leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, who with nuclear power, has announced that he will test long range missiles weekly. Trump has ordered a naval strike group to move into position near the Korean Penninsula. Into the vacuum.......you get it! Russian and Chinese ships have now moved into place to shadow American ships. Dear God!

Does anyone else feel that our world is again like a chess board gone mad? I just want to scream at the offenders, STOP! CAN WE ALL JUST TAKE A CHILL PILL. Remember. This isn't a game. We are talking the survival of mankind.








Wednesday, 12 April 2017

I ACCEPT THE CONSEQUENCES

Carved over the ages, crevices and deep folds criss-cross the battered and weathered landscape. Deep grooves have developed into gaping valleys. Oh, what Father Time has wrought. No, I am not gazing at the glorious Grand Canyon, although I wish I was. Instead, in the harsh light of our ensuite, I am examining my aging face. When did those facial fine lines morph into such heavy wrinkles? Oh my!


I figure I have three options. 1) totally freak out and search for a mega-talented plastic surgeon longing for the ultimate in professional challenges or 2) do as a sign I once read suggests, "Go bra-less; it pulls the wrinkles from your face", or 3) view my wrinkles as a reflection of the awesome lifetime experiences I have enjoyed. Although the bra-less suggestion holds great appeal, I am opting for #3.

Wrinkles, experts hypothesize, are caused by a life of excess - too much sunshine, to much exposure to pollution and too much drinking.

Yes, I have enjoyed a life of excess.......sorta'......but I have loved every moment of those awesome experiences. For sure I have exposed myself to excessive sunshine - beach walks and exploring Barbados, hiking and golfing in Arizona, sailing Lake Ontario and the Caribbean, travel to the Mediterranean..........If that sunshine has created the thick lines that carve their way through the skin between my eyebrows, I happily accept the consequences.

Excessive pollution? I don't think so. Excessive drinking? Not really. Weeellllll! I  do admit to loving a glass of wine and have, on the rare occasion over-indulged. Don't fret, my friends. I shan't name any accomplices. If wine has caused the wrinkles which carve their way down my cheeks, I merrily accept the consequences.

Those crevices, once mere crows feet, that grace my mouth? I love nothing more in life than to laugh. Zany laughter with my sons and husband, contagious chuckles with my grandchildren, rocking guffaws with my colleagues and friends. "Laughter is the sound of the soul dancing." If the imperfections around my mouth are due to excessive laughing, then I joyfully accept the consequences.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, this vision is not the face of the child my Mother patted to comfort or my husband caressed as a young newlywed. This face and its wrinkles do though tell the story of my blessed life. A life of sunshine, laughter and wine. It doesn't get much better and thus I accept the consequences. My face may be wrinkled, but I don't feel old. As aged wisdom knows, "There are no wrinkles on the heart."




Monday, 3 April 2017

WHO ARE YOU WEARING?

Conversation in the dressing room at Uxpool after swimming last week:
Fellow swimmer: "Ooooo! I love those pale gray jeans. Whose label?"
Me: No immediate response, just my usual stunned expression accompanied by the scrunched eyebrows of total puzzlement.
Fellow swimmer: Filling in the silence, "When you get home, check the label. I would love to get a pair......if you don't mind".

Moments later, sitting in my car, preparing to drive home, I lay my head on the steering wheel and laughed, laughed until my sides ached and tears rolled down my cheeks. For a nano second, just a nano second mind you, I had felt as if I was in a procession of stars parading down the red carpet during awards season wearing a major designer's one-of creation. You know..........that moment when the celebrity interviewer asks, "and who are you wearing?"


After thirty-five years in the real estate industry, I am no stranger to high quality, smart 'labelled' attire. As a new sales representative, "You only get one chance to make a first impression" had been drilled into me by my first broker. I was deeply, in hindsight too deeply, influenced by the 1975 Malloy book, "Dress For Success". My closet today still contains some of those name brand blazers, pants and what Jim refers to as his favourite (not) "here come de' judge," suit. Yes, they still fit. Problem? I have very few places to wear them. To be honest, I thankfully have no one I need to impress but myself. Such is my glorious retirement. Don't get me wrong. Clean and neatly dressed, I appear neither like a drug addict nor homeless lady, so you can remove that image.

One afternoon a week, I volunteer at Chances Are, a second hand store that sells gently used or unused clothing, linens, small housewares and books at very reasonable prices. Thanks to the generosity of Uxbridgeans, a high percentage of the donated goods are of extremely high quality. Annually, our little store donates in excess of a quarter of a million dollars to the Uxbridge Cottage Hospital. Staggering! One afternoon a month I also volunteer in the Hospital Gift Shop, a surprise little gem of a store. It is difficult during these volunteer hours not to stumble on bargains.

Those gray jeans? Jones of New York. $4.00 at Chances Are. Leaving the pool, I began imagining my answer that day to the reporter's, "and who are you wearing?" and that is when my uncontrollable laughter ensued.

Soft gray Jeans. Chances Are ($4.00)
Matching long-sleeved top. Chances Are ($3.00)
Quilted knee-length winter coat with fur lined hood. Chances Are ($10.00)
Leather gloves, new. Chances Are ($8.00)
Scarf, new. Uxbridge Cottage Hospital Gift Shop. (A whopping $19.00)
Sketcher shoes with snow-tire like treads. Mark's......and that's a story for another day.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is what I was wearing. There is just no denying my fashion plate status!





Wednesday, 15 March 2017

NINJA JIM

"Surmounting difficulty is the crucible that forms character." Tony Robbins

In January, 2005, Jim underwent knee replacement surgery. Six months later, relatively pain free and in great shape, he was climbing 'munroes' with me in Glencoe, Scotland. Thus in June, 2014, when hip replacement surgery was recommended, Jim had no qualms. Same hospital, same surgeon, a surgery considered not as extreme as knee replacement.....what could possibly go wrong?

"That's not right,"commented our very observant physiotherapist friend Cathy when she and her husband David visited Jim the day after his surgery. What Cathy had noted was that Jim's right foot on his affected leg lay on his hospital bed at ninety degrees to his left foot. Using a pillow, she immediately propped the foot up to vertical. That would be Clue #1. Oh, Cathy, we should have listened then!

A year later, strolling the beach at their cottage, Cathy nodded towards Jim who was walking ahead with David. "Something is definitely wrong, Daf; his stride is totally off. He needs to go back to his surgeon." Jim now walked with his right foot at a forty-five degree angle to his left. That would be Clue #2.

Clue #3? Despite extensive therapy and ongoing corrective exercises, the tendency of Jim's right foot to remain now at ninety degrees to his left plus his discomfort and pain when tempting to pull it in parallel to his other foot, increased. Then the tripping began. After a bad fall in Newfoundland and two severe stumbles at home, Jim reverted to using a cane, but now his hip discomfort and pain became constant and grew in intensity. A solid night's sleep was a rare luxury for him.

Long story short, almost three years after the original surgery, after countless X-rays and MRI's, a second medical opinion at Sunnybrook's Holland Centre diagnosed the problem - two muscle groups were never re-attached during the initial hip replacement surgery. Whaaaaaat?

Historically, a ninja was a skilled fighter in feudal Japan. Modern vernacular designates anyone who survives a treacherous obstacle course in life as a ninja. To me, Jim has earned the title. Yes, he worried and yes, he complained about his discomfort. Did he beg his doctor for pain killers? Did he stop living? Did he sit in a easy chair at home, using his condition as an excuse. No! No! No! During the three years since his disastrous surgery, Jim has refused to stop living; he has refused to limit himself.


Walk down the road with your right foot at a ninety-degree angle to your left and imagine your hip burning with pain. Come on. I dare you. Now in that condition, walk the streets of Paris for eight days straight, never resorting to transportation. Better yet hike both coasts of Newfoundland like that. Have you seen those trails? Don't forget to climb the stairs and treacherous rocky trail to Brimstone Head on Fogo Island. Then let your spouse talk you into three weeks of walking and hiking in southern Italy. Oh, don't forget to suggest that, in that condition, you climb every tower/campanile in sight. 


At home, clear the driveway and paths of snow. Oh, while you are at it, help others on the cul-de-sac. Put out the garbage, work in the gardens, mow the lawn, rake and remove the leaves and, best of all, lay new hardwood floors. Yes, I said lay hardwood floors! If you want to head into town for a movie, evening out, parade, whatever, insist on walking!

On Monday, Jim will finally undergo corrective surgery at Sunnybrook in what will be a lengthy operation. Recovery, too, we have been warned, will present its challenges, but nothing that my Ninja cannot surmount with 'parallel feet' as his goal.

I salute you Ninja Jim. I love you. By example, you have taught me the truth to Nelson Mandel's words, "It only seems impossible until it's done".









Saturday, 11 March 2017

BECOMING UXBRIDGEAN

In August, 2012, leaving behind over thirty-five years of life in York Region's Thornhill, Jim and I immigrated to the Town of Uxbridge in Durham Region. Thankfully, there were no passport checks or Kellie Leitch-like screenings for Uxbridgean values before we were allowed to settle in our new home. In hindsight that is perhaps a shame because I do know the words to "Oh, Canada".

However, as "our need to belong is not rational, but is a constant that exists across all people in all cultures"*, Jim and I were not immune to immediately attempting to fit in. How to be more like a native Uxbridgean became our quest and minor obsession.

Jim first noted that just about everyone drove a shiny big GM or Ford truck, walked at least one dog and had children in hockey. We drove two Toyota SUV's, didn't have any pets and could not talk our forty plus year olds, Christopher and Matthew, into moving home and attending hockey camp. So much for that idea!


Wait! Isn't 852 the original telephone exchange for Uxbridge while we newbies are assigned 862? We'll just sweet talk old Ma Bell into changing our telephone number. We've known her for years; she should be amenable. Right? Whaaaat? She refused? So much for that idea.

One of Jim's golf buddies jokes that he has resided in the same property on a sideroad just off Lakeridge Road for twenty-five years. When answering the question of where he lives, he is always greeted with, "Oh, the old Bennett property!" If I speak of a favourite shop on Brock in the old part of town, native Uxbridgeans never fail to mention the numerous businesses that have preceded in that location. Hmmm? Could Jim and I emulate that knowledge?  Perhaps we should head to the Registry Office and study past owners and town businesses. Are you kidding me? Too much work! So much for that idea.


Responding to the words, "Have a great day", most Torontonians I know would respond with, "You, too!" Not so with native Uxbridgeans who invariably answer, "You as well", a phrase which reflects Uxbridge's Quaker history. Okay, we've got this one. "Have a great day. Happy holidays. Stay warm. Stay cool. Enjoy."  And we blurt out, "You, too". Huh? We can't help it; the words simply fall from our tongues. Why can't we automatically respond with, "You as well"? Could it be sixty-five years of GTA training? So much for that idea.

And then it happened. Walking home from a Monday matinee at our little Roxy Theatre, waving to all of the shopkeepers along the way, we came to the realization that we are indeed Uxbridgeans. It came not from a flashy truck, an 852 exchange, an extensive knowledge of our towns past or an ability to instinctively respond with "you as well". Belonging came from a deep love for our adopted little town and the knowledge that we are home. Yes! Jim and Daphne are true Uxbridgeans.

* Simon Sinek













Monday, 6 March 2017

FOLLOW THE LEADER

One player is chosen as Leader. No matter how bizarre the Leader's actions - dancing, skipping, crawling through hoops, twirling in circles, yodelling - the task for Followers is to immediately emulate the actions of their Leader. To fail to do so is to be expelled from the game.


I am most likely dating myself, but I clearly remember this childhood game. Do you? Ah, the innocence of our youth. Sadly, in adult life, Follow The Leader is no longer a sweet little game.

Albert Einstein once wrote that, "setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means".

And President Trump is now Leader. His example - his actions, words and deeds influence others, his Followers.
* "When Mexico sends it's people......they're bringing crime. They're rapists."
* "...because laziness is a trait in blacks."
* "...total and complete shutdown of Muslims' entry..."
Xenophobia has now been officially sanctioned. Citizens are now more comfortable showing mistrust and fear. Hate is being normalized. Emboldened white supremacists feel justified in their actions. They have a Leader. Is that what Trump meant when he declared himself "President for all Americans"?

Hate crimes and racist incidents have significantly increased since Mr. Trump's election. American mosques have received letters calling Muslims "a vile and filthy people". A Puerto Rican family awoke one morning to discover their family car with the words "Go Home" emblazoned on it. Latino students have been bullied. "You wetbacks need to go back to Mexico." Dear God, these are just children. A Sikh man was shot in his driveway, the shooter yelling, "Go back to your country".

No one knows the pain of hate crimes more than the Jewish population and they have not been immune to recent attacks. The U.S. has experienced a spike in vandalism and bomb threats targeting Jewish institutions and property. One might argue that the President supports Israel, but like a cancer, once unchecked, hate insidiously grows and spreads. I promise that the thugs attacking Jewish institutions don't give a damn about Trump's Israeli policies. Anything or anybody different is now a legitimate target.

"Oh, get over it" you say. "We live in gentle Canada."

Trudeau, Sr. once spoke of Canadan-U.S. relations, comparing them to "sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly or even-tempered is the beast......one is affected by every twitch and grunt." Despite Canada's reputation for being kind, friendly, open-minded, 'oh-sorry-ish', we have an intolerant, bigeted, white supremacist underbelly eagerly awaiting the right Leader. Tragically, Toronto and Quebec City have already experienced the targeted actions of this sewer-dwelling segment of our population. Canada is not immune and I worry.

So? I for one refuse to play this American version of Follow The Leader; I am relieved to be expelled. I have promised myself to not remain silent, to speak out against xenophobia, racism, intolerance and lies, and to work diligently against any Canadian leadership hopeful exhibiting Trump-like qualities. Follow The Leader is no longer a childhood game.