Saturday, December 29, 2012

What A Treasure

On a United Airlines flight from Newark to Atlanta, I read the airline's current in-flight magazine, Hemispheres. It's quite big and full of articles but about 2/3 of the way through, there was an article called Treasure Islands in which "...we offer a dozen of the world's best island destinations -- from tropical to temperate, and classic to unexpected."

The twelve include:
The Exumas, Bahamas
Puerto Rico
Turks & Caicos
Langkawi, Malaysia
Camiguin, Phillipines
Roatan, Honduras
Elba, Italy
Kauai, HawaII
Cape Breton, Canada

Did you see that? Did you see? Number 11 in that article is our treasure, Cape Breton. The article states, "This emerald island in Canada's Maritimes is ideal for slightly less sun-loving travellers looking for peace and quiet."  It goes on to say that the Cabot Trail is considered one of the best road trips in Canada.
Should I have stood up in the cabin and drawn everyone's attention to the article and that particular island?
"Come to Nova Scotia, people. The whole province is practically an island!"
Maybe I could have mentioned the Moose Sex Project...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

We Won't Be Packing The Snow To Take With Us

It's always tricky to make plans to fly during the winter when you live in Canada but at least in Nova Scotia, you can leave your home in Cumberland County in a blizzard but park in rain at the airport.
As I've checked the forecast for the last four days, it's become increasingly nerve-wracking.
First, it was "snow or rain" and plus 3. Then it was "snow and zero". Yesterday, the word "windy" entered the forecast.
Now today, I didn't panic at the wide yellow bar across the forecast because I read the details. This would be the first time I've been glad to see the word "late" in anything related to air travel...

Let It Snow...But Not Until After 12:30 pm!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Country Christmas

From our coop to yours, have a lovely holiday filled with peace, kindness and egg-citement.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In Memoriam

It is with sadness that  I tell you that Mr. Millard Charman of Wallace, passed away earlier this week. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to interview this interesting 96-year-old gentleman last month.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Get Carded

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, December 12, 2012, by Sara Mattinson

    The Christmas cards are starting to trickle in. Normally, I attach them to thick ribbons wrapped lengthwise around the door to the basement but this year, we have a four month old kitten in the house.
Pause a moment to picture the fun he could have with that arrangement. 
So this year, the cards are going up on the mantle and I fear we will have room left over. 
Every year I get more committed to the ritual of sending Christmas cards but fewer arrive. Rather than seeing that as a lack of popularity, I think it’s a reflection of a general dropping away of this yearly practice. While busy lives and tighter budgets make it an easy chore to avoid, I think it’s a shame. 
But not for the reason you may think.
I send out Christmas cards because most of my friends and family live away so sending out Christmas cards is my way of saying, “I am still alive. Hope you are, too. Thinking of you often but only get around to writing once a year. Merry Christmas from the East Coast.”  
It’s better than nothing (and that last part is a bit of bragging).  
In this age of Facebook and Twitter, consider the old-fashioned charm of receiving a Christmas card. Familiar handwriting, a faraway postmark, the heartwarming idea of being remembered fondly enough to be on someone’s mailing list. Now that Christmas is about instant gratification, the latest gadgets, and holiday shopping gone viral,  it’s nice to have something that reminds us of “those good old days” when everything moved a lot slower.
And the mail moved a lot quicker. 
I also send out Christmas cards so that I get to receive them. And the reason I want to receive them is so that I can keep them. Every Christmas card I’ve received since moving here in 2007 are stored in a large boot box because of a crafty plan: Recycle images from the front of cards into gift tags. This inner crafty person finally got released this year when lugged out the box full of Christmas cards rubber-banded together according to year. 
Turns out, that filing system was flawed but because of that flaw, I can reveal the surprising reason why the expense and effort of writing and sending  Christmas cards is worth it. 
And it involves that special Christmas magic.
While sorting through 2010 cards looking for images to cut out, I came across an envelope addressed to my dog at my address in Ontario. Familiar handwriting that I hadn’t seen it for awhile. I smiled again at the dog joke on the front of the card then opened it to see the signature: “Clancy and his mum”. 
Coming across that card was an unexpected gift.
Both Clancy and his mum are gone now, my dear friend having died in 2008 and her dog in 2011. Christmas is not a holiday I associate with Diana the because our friendship was born and nurtured during my summers on Pugwash Point long before I moved down here permanently but because of the tradition of sending out Christmas cards, because of my habit of keeping them, on an evening in December 2012, I was able to reconnect with a long-lost friend and companion. 
Isn’t that the point of the season? To find the joy in simple gifts. To make a special effort to send out messages to remind those friends and relations who live away that we miss them. To remember that the smallest gestures reap the biggest rewards. 
If keeping the memory of a friend alive isn’t reason enough to keep the tradition of mailing Christmas cards alive, then our collective heart has become three-sizes too small. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Conversation With...Zaine McEachern

First published in The Oxford Journal on December 5, 2012, by Sara Mattinson.

Santa Claus slipped into the Journal office a couple of weeks ago to tell me about someone he’d met during his first public appearance of the season. 
He pulled a large, clear freezer bag out of a plastic grocery bag and laid it on the counter. In the freezer bag were two twenty dollar bills, a whole whack of change and a note. 
The adult-written note said, “Dear Santa, I want to give you this money so you can give it to the people that need it. Love from Zaine. I’m always in the Christmas spirit!”
Naturally, I want to have a conversation with this boy. 
When the door of their central Amherst home opens, I am greeted by a huge dog and a small boy. Zaine and his Dane. 
We all settle onto the couch in the living room, Zaine next to his mother, the dog keeping an eye on me. I don’t know what’s more distracting: this giant dog or the giant grin on Zaine’s face. He’s only six but his smile is wide and genuine and happy.   
To put him at ease, I ask Zaine some simple questions about himself. His favourite Christmas movie is “Santa Paws” and his favourite song is “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” because he’s learning it for the concert at his school, West Highlands Elementary. Christmas is his favourite time of the year “because you get toys,” he says. 
I already know that Zaine and his mother, Kait Jardine, visited Santa twice on a Friday night in mid-November when he was at a store in the mall. But I want Zaine to tell me what happened after that. 
“At night, me and Mommy made a present for Santa that was money. In the morning, we gave it to him.”
It was his money, he says, pointing to the empty crayon piggy bank sitting on the counter. 
“Kids need money to buy presents. They don’t have money to get food. I heard that from my mom.” 
Kait hugs her son. They have the same smile. 
“When he went to visit Santa,” she explains, “I told Zaine that sometimes people don’t need toys, they need food because they don’t have any money. He thought it would be nice to give money to Santa because sometimes Santa takes it.”
She’s tried to instill in her son the importance of helping others. 
“I’ve tried to teach him that it’s good to give to other people, too. We get tiny stockings and ornaments and give them to the people at the hospital.”
Kait is an LPN working part-time at the hospital in Springhill. She works on the 2nd floor, restorative care, and sometimes brings her son with her to visit the patients. 
“I take him around to the rooms that are appropriate for him to visit and have a little chat. They think he’s very cute. He’s not shy at all, not usually.”
She shouldn’t have been surprised, then, that Zaine would want to give his money to Santa. 
“I was very proud that he would think of that,” says Kait. “I didn’t expect him to take his own money and give it away. He got the present ready Friday night and I figured he’d unwrap it and put it back in his piggy bank.”
Early Christmas surprise #1.
“After he gave Santa his present,” she continues, “Santa asked him if he wanted anything else and Zaine said no. That surprised me because he’s a kid and kids want stuff.”
Early Christmas surprise #2.

The whole time we’re sitting on the couch, Zaine appears to be vibrating, as if he has something he wants to tell me but I’m a stranger so he’s shy and holding back. His mother tries to encourage him (“He’s not usually shy,” she laughs). He goes to whisper in her ear but buries his face in her neck instead. The grin is still visible. 
“He’s had a rough go,” Zaine’s mother says. “He has only one eye that he can see out of so that’s been a struggle. He’s had glasses since he was six months old. He has a hard time at school because he has ADHD. He’s had a lot of things to deal with but, I don’t know, he’s just special. He’s a good kid.”
I ask Zaine where the money came from. All he says is, “I had it,” so his mother provides the rest of the details.
“Some of it’s from doing chores, some of it’s for being good like taking his pill when he’s supposed to. Some of it’s money from Grammy. When we got home from giving Santa his present, he said, ‘I’m going to do some chores so I can save up for next year’. He started sweeping up the dog food.”
This is the shortest conversation I’d ever had but one of the most enjoyable. I ask Zaine if there’s anything else he wants to tell me before the interview ends. 
“I like you,” is all he says. With that grin. This is the kid that keeps on giving.
What does Zaine want people to know about always being in the Christmas spirit?
“Help people by giving them your money.”
Leave it to a six-year-old to state the obvious: Share. Be in the Christmas spirit all year long. Help people. 
You might want to do what he says. This little boy with the big heart has a very big dog. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The OJ Elves are Busy!

Boy, are we busy today.
Tomorrow, our Christmas issue comes out and it's 32 pages of unique Christmas greetings from local businesses as well as many of the clergy of the local churches. Plus, we're already working on next week's issue, which is our New Year's special.
There is a conversation in this week's paper but no Field Notes column until January 2.
But the best part of today...our boss treats us to our annual Christmas lunch: Chinese takeout!  He fills us up so we can keep working like busy elves all afternoon.
It's all part of the season. And we keep moving with the Christmas music streaming on Jane's computer.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pugwash Community Christmas Musical

From Friday, December 14, 2012, at the United Church in Pugwash.

The tree is 25 feet tall and is absolutely stunning. I found its beauty and presence very peaceful and very joyful.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Keep the Light Burning

It was with profound relief that I listened to the minister close last evening's community Christmas musical in Pugwash by acknowledging the unimaginable tragedy that had occurred earlier in the day.
"Perfect words," I was able to tell Rev. Meggin King afterwards but that's all I could say. The unimaginable was also unspeakable.
We had experienced the joy of beautiful music amidst the bleakness of a massacre. I watched one particular woman in the choir and I could tell from the look of pure joy on her face as she sang, her enjoyment of the soloist and trios that she is one of those people who Truly Love Christmas. I felt happy for her.
The pianist is a friend of mine but also the vice-principal at an elementary school. Already running on the hyped-up exhaustion that comes with putting on a major concert, she would still be processing what had happened in her world in another part of the world while she played carols and non-traditional, very upbeat Christmas songs. 
The other thing churches do well is fellowship: tea and coffee, sandwiches and sweets.  This time after the concert was a balm for my shocked spirit. I am a stranger in church but not in the community although to many, I am a name in the paper but not a face they can find in the crowd. Some people recognized me, however, and some old friends found me and they said the kindest words about my writing. How much they enjoy it, how it touches them; one woman even told me what her favourite columns are. We talked about Christmas plans -- someone has stopped counting at 30 of those planning to be at her farmhouse on Christmas Day -- and we laughed, we hugged, we wished each other "Merry Christmas". 
The minister's prayer and these conversations over tea are are not unconnected to the tragedy in Connecticut and they need to continue. The giving and receiving of kind words, of encouragement, the sharing of joy are what we need to do to keep the light burning. Darkness has swept in around us, closer than ever before, and we need to keep going, however much it hurts. What makes that possible is the kindness we show to each other. Every time this happens, we have to love each other more and be kinder to each other. Shining the light of love and kindness is our only human defense against the darkness.

It's okay, too, to be kind to oneself. Feel the tragedy, be upset, be scared. Be grateful, be gentle, take care of yourself.
Walking my dogs is one of the "normal" things I do in times of agony. They shoot out the door with great enthusiasm and proceed with their normal stuff. They don't know why I burst into tears this morning but they also don't know what happened to 20 children and six female teachers in a school in the States. All they know is we are going for a walk. Oh, what pleasure these four-legged friends get from the simple act of walking across the field and into the woods.
It seemed appropriate that the wind was so cold, it made my face ache. It gave me a sharp pain in my forehead. But it was not unbearable pain and I welcomed that sensation. Yet again, I had reason to be grateful for this safe and happy life. It only seemed fair to keep walking while the dogs chased each other with a stick. 

(See how the light always returns, how it drives back the heavy, dark clouds? Even if the biting wind continues to freeze and force us back, makes it a struggle to move forward, the light shines, strengthens, gives hope. One step at a time.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Get in the Christmas Spirit Tonight

I don't know what it's like in the rest of the province but here in Cumberland County, most of us are suffering from that rare virus, the Christmas cold. It comes with Advent and is the kind that ends up as laryngitis then a lingering, incessant dry throat-clearing.
It's the worst kind of cold to have at this kind of year. We're singing a lot more (and some of those carols are pitched rather high) and ministers/pastors/priests are speaking a lot more. We're running around more than usual; who has time to lie down on Saturday afternoon for a nap at any other time of the year, let alone in mid-December?
But it's amazing how we all persevere. We clear our throats and beg pardon for sounding croaky. We compare the number of days we went without a voice (three seems to be the average; anyone else pop a disc in their mid-back from coughing or am I the only lucky one?).
Last night, I attended the dress rehearsal for the Pugwash Community Christmas Musical in order to snap a photo for the newspaper's Christmas issue (Dec. 19) and everyone was coughing this dry, nagging cough.
"Don't come near me, I'm contaminated!" I heard one choir member say.
But the church was cold enough that I don't think the germs would survive.
If you are in the area, you should come to this concert this evening, in Pugwash, at the United Church on Church Street. It starts at 7 pm but by the amount of chairs set up in the overflow room, you'd best arrive by 6:30 to get a seat. The music will be great and the church looks lovely in its seasonal greenery but the 40-feet Christmas tree in the sanctuary alone is worth the drive. And tonight, the church will be warm. All three furnaces will be going and there will be lots of happy people and warm greetings to keep the cold away.
It occurred to me that the ushers should hand out throat lozenges with the programs but having heard the rehearsal, the band and the 43-member choir and the kids in their fabulous costumes will drown out any coughing fit that might come upon us after singing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Take a Picture, It Lasts Longer

First published in The Oxford Journal on November 28, 2012 by Sara Mattinson.

It started out as two small spots on my upper right arm on a Tuesday. They became itchy so I  blamed it on the cuff of my shirt rubbing against them. 
By Thursday, those two spots had become many, spread all over the inside of my upper arm. And they weren’t spots any longer; they were puffy, oozing welts. My husband fetched non-stick bandages from the pharmacy which soaked through quickly, and the next day, insisted I go to the Collaborative Emergency Centre at the hospital in Pugwash. 
I was the first patient on the first day of the new CEC. 
Doctor Number One, unfamiliar, apparently called in just for opening day, looked at my arm and asked a few questions. He checked the computer (was he Googling my symptoms?), told me I had shingles and sent me off with a prescription. 
I saw Doctor Number Two four days later when my left eye got itchy and I thought the shingles had moved to my eye because the stuff on my arm was spreading. He said I had a bacterial infection and prescribed an antibiotic and a follow-up appointment. 
Doctor Number Three took one look at my arm, called a dermatologist in Moncton, Doctor Number Four, who prescribed a steroid cream and told me see her the following week. By the time she examined my arm, the only visible signs of what had been red, raw, itchy and oozing was red, raw and healing. She guessed it was contact dermatitis, likely from poison ivy, and said to come back if it flared up again. 
So let’s review: I saw four doctors, none of whom are my family doctor. None of those doctors saw any notes made by the previous doctor. Every doctor had a different diagnosis because they were seeing my arm at a different stage (including the I’m-throwing-everything-in-my-medicine-cabinet-on-it stage). 
To call this system inefficient is an understatement. We have smart phones that do everything but vacuum our homes yet our medical files are not available on a computer network for all doctors to access and no digital picture of my arm at its worse was taken for future reference (say, six months later, if my family doctor wanted to figure out why my arm had fallen off). Instead, all visits to the ER/CEC are written on paper forms which are then filed in the basement of the hospital. There is no way to track how many times someone shows up and with what symptoms. 
This isn’t a lack of technology but a lack of using the technology that is available. Frankly, it is shocking and unacceptable. We live in a 21st century world with 22nd century capabilities yet our delivery of health care services languish in the 20th century. 
I’m surprised someone didn’t suggest a proper leeching. 
 My medical information should be available to every doctor in this province. Don’t scream “Privacy issues!” at me. You have no idea how much Google and Facebook know about you already, and considering the lack of discretion most people exhibit when posting information to the Internet, I’ll take faster, more accurate health care over fears someone might hack into my medical files. Seriously, one piece of paper per visit that gets dumped in the basement for no other doctor to see? This seems like the perfect system for creating prescription drug addicts. 
This sad state has nothing to do with us living in the backwoods; it’s just plain backwards. Actually, those of us who choose to live in a rural area, who accept the two-hour drive to see specialists or for surgery would be far better served if we implemented even HALF the technology we use in our daily lives. It would have saved the health care system, myself and my employer time and money if that phone call to the dermatologist could have happened over an Internet phone with me holding up my arm for her to see. 
The next time I show up at the CEC with an ailment, I’m going to ask if the doctor’s smart phone could see me instead. Maybe it can tell me why that spot on my upper arm is still itchy.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Christmas By The Sea

The village of Pugwash is full of artists and bakers, writers and photographers, as well as a lovely population of friendly, caring people. There is always a good energy about Pugwash (even when dealing with an economic crisis: ) and my creativity gets fired up after hanging out there.

Christmas By The Sea is such a lovely name and it includes a Christmas house tour as well (which will be featured in this week's issue of the newspaper).
It also includes the annual Christmas Farmers' Market, held today at the Pugwash High School which provides lots of room for a variety of vendors. It gets bigger every year and there's always something unique to buy. I wish I'd saved more shopping money to treat myself to a couple of pillows handcrafted out of wool and fleece by an artist in Port Elgin.

Here is Wes and Maryanne Trenholm from Mount Pleasant with their homemade soaps and preserves. They are a young couple with three children (the youngest only 3 months old!) who are determined to make a living with what they can produce themselves.

Jenn Houghtaling of Pugwash sells her one-of-a-kind pottery. I'm looking forward to writing an article about her creative genius, which isn't limited to pottery; she also weaves, felts, knits, and cooks.

Louise Cloutier, who is the art teacher at Pugwash High, created these "tree sprites" out of driftwood and clay faces (which she made herself). Love these!

And this is only a taste of what is found in Pugwash and at the annual Christmas Farmers' Market. Doesn't it make you want to move to Cumberland County and breathe in some of this creative air yourself? At the very least, remember to check out Christmas By the Sea in 2013.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Morning Musing

It took moving to rural Nova Scotia for me to learn the power of going with the flow. The space to breathe, the place to write. The contentment of chickens and the happiness of humans. The bird's eye view of the weather from a writing room painted yellow. Dogs to walk, cats to cuddle. A companion who says, "You can do it". Letting go of control and going with the flow. But funny how it seems that flow has taken me away from what I love best.
The meditation of a morning walk.
I walked a dog every morning from the fall of 1996 to the fall of 2007. Once I moved to the country, however, one walk a day, let alone two, became more challenging without streetlights, without sidewalks. We managed three or four a week on the road or through the fields, even if we just walked to the mailbox several times. It was a habit I didn't want to give up.
Now I work four days a week, gone every morning by 8:15 am after doing yoga and feeding the pets and getting myself ready for the day. Mind racing: What to make for lunch, what to eat for supper, time to fill up with gas. With this blog and a Facebook page and a bi-weekly column, it seems as if I'm always thinking of what to write next yet I don't have that wonderful walking time time to let inspiration gurgle up from the depths. The daily and weekly To Do list keeps my mind occupied and only the absolute deadline of a 600-word column makes those thoughts a priority.
I miss the creative writing that comes after a quiet morning of walking, doing the chicken chores, drinking coffee, reading the paper, making the bed. The rituals that prepare my mind for a morning of writing. Rituals that were easy to establish when my part-time work schedule followed the school year.
And that's where my first sentence circles back in (I talk this way, too, much to my husband's frustration during a conversation).
When I first settled in here five years ago, I had two jobs of equal importance (but only the first was total passion): writing and substitute teaching. After a few years, with both jobs stalled at the same level, I said to the universe, "I will take whatever opportunities comes my way. Whether it is in teaching or in writing, I will take the opportunity when it presents itself." That was me letting go of my own control, of my belief that I have control over the plan for my life.
From that day forward, every opportunity that came my way was consistently about writing. In four years of subbing, I didn't even have an entire week stretch in the same classroom but almost immediately, I was accepted into the mentorship program of the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia, an experience that created the book that I am now hoping to publish.
Opportunities don't come much bigger than that. Or the one that came after deciding in May of 2011 to stop being a substitute: the job at the Oxford Journal leapt off the Classifieds page two weeks later.
At the same time, I continued my secret, silent wish to write full time. What I meant was write books full-time at home...and yet here I am, with that too-simple wish fulfilled. I am writing full-time: a column every week, be it In Conversation With... or Field Notes, something on this blog (and it feels good to be writing here today, just writing, just going with the flow of thoughts), or something on my Facebook page (building the foundation for the hoped-for career as a book author). So I've refined that now-not-so-secret wish or perhaps just taking it one step at a time: I want to write books full-time from home. That's the next step to work towards: Getting back to doing this every day, and each day beginning with a morning walk.
If thinking about it can make it happen, it will. Because I think about it all the time. I have my daily schedule down and I have four more books I'd like to write, including two novels. But that could be considered making plans, couldn't it? and I don't want to jinx the flow right now. Not when it's going so well.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Let it snow!

My husband is standing at the window glaring at the multitude of flakes whirling down from the sky but behind him, my mother and I are smiling. We like snow, not so much because "it has to snow for Christmas" but because we really like snow. And we're not even skiiers. Rather, it's a change of season kind of delight. On to winter!
My mother spends the winter down south so I'm pleased she's had a snowstorm, even one as brief and mild, and really non-stormy, as this one to enjoy before she heads out to the land of the two-planting seasons. Daffodils up in March!
But I guess this means I've lost my chance to plant any daffodil and tulip bulbs this year. Every time the weather "milded up", as same husband puts it, the ground remained too wet for planting. What will I do if I don't have more daffs to look at in the spring? Temperatures seem to be milding up for the weekend, perhaps drier, too, because even though winter approaches, plans for spring are always underway.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

In Conversation With...Millard Charman

First published in the November 21 issue of The Oxford Journal by Sara Mattinson.

Millard Charman has a dream.
“I’m very anxious that this be included in your write-up,” he says to me as we sit in the sunroom of his home overlooking Wallace Harbour, “because I’m getting on to my last days and I want somebody else to take over because this is a big dream of mine. The golf course won’t be complete until this is done.”
The 96-year-old former owner of Charman’s Home Hardware in Wallace is talking about the Northumberland Links on the Gulf Shore Road. In 1953, Millard and three friends decided they were tired of driving to Amherst to golf.
“One day, we were coming home and we decided this was foolish, that we would build a golf course. By the time we got home from Amherst, the plans were all made. We struck the ground running. The four of us built it in two years. It’s the pride of my life.”  
The expansion he’d like to see on the 200-plus undeveloped acres the golf course owns is, to say the least, ambitious. 
“My vision for the golf course is another nine holes right behind on our own property. Next to the new nine, we’d like a luxury hotel. Next to that, we’d like a home development with 90 homes. It’s beautiful land up there, lots of water.”
His vision encompasses a swath of land from Aboiteau Road to the race track on Miller Road and ends with the development of several existing entities, starting with the golf course, into “something wonderful.”
Millard Charman has a wish. 
“I would like an extension on this lifetime,” he says. “If I could get another 20 years, I’d get some of these things done. Since I can’t do that, I would like someone to take over for me. Oh, there’s so much to be done around here.”
This from a man who has filled his 96 years with more than a few unique experiences. 
He ran for county council in 1937 at the age of 21. 
“One day, I was with a bunch of boys and we were talking, ‘We should run and get those old fogies out of there,’ so two of us decided we would run. Just like that. Well, the other fellow gave up so it turned out I was the only one elected. I stayed in for three 3-year terms.”
One of those terms occurred while Millard was serving overseas in World World Two.
“I was an air crew mechanic. I was in the south of England for two and a half years.” 
After returning  home, he ran for council for a third term, helped build the Wallace Legion and Cenotaph, built a golf course, took over his father’s store, met and married his wife of fifty years, then retired in 1975 because Pearl had a health scare “so I thought I should sell out and let her have a good time. She’s 90 now and still going strong.”
He has owned a home in Florida for 40 years and this will be the last winter he and Pearl spend down south because the cost of health insurance is getting too high. 
According to Millard, Wallace hasn’t change a lot in his lifetime. 
“There are fewer businesses here. All the families have changed. My grandparents had 11 children and they were all brought up here and now I’m the only Charman left in Wallace,” he tells me. “We’re very fortunate to have a good class of people here. We don’t have a lot of crime in Wallace. A lot of nuisance things but no real crime. No murders.”
But he sees the population of the village in steady decline so he suggests that Viagra be distributed for free to people in Wallace.  There is a shocked silence – from me – then Millard laughs and laughs. His suggestion is incongruous with the rest of our conversation, with his articulate and gentlemanly demeanour, but it is delightful to hear this unexpectedly hearty laughter. 
Although he admits to not knowing the secret to a long life – “I haven’t figured it out yet” – I’m guessing a good nature and a community-minded work ethic might be part of it. 
As I’m about to leave, Millard points to a framed photograph on the wall next to the door. It shows two elephants who look like they’re chasing a lioness.
“I didn’t take that photo,” he says. “I was standing next to the guy who did.”
The photo is from a safari in Africa. 
All of a sudden, a whole new story emerges. Millard and Pearl have travelled around the world twice. The first time,  seven years after they married, they were gone for almost three months and witnessed a moment in history. When they hit the Middle East, Millard and Pearl unintentionally landed at the start of the Arab-Israeli War in 1967. 
“We were there, by accident, for the Six Day War. We weren’t able to do anything but sit on the plane and wait to leave.”
Since that tour, they’ve travelled somewhere in the world every year; last year, they went on a 20-day cruise around South America
“The only place I never went to was Russia but I was never particularly interested in going there anyway,” Millard tells me. 
96 years old, 50 years of marriage, 3 games of golf a week, two times around the world, one world war. And no regrets. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Our Government's Shame

This column was first published in November 14, 2012 issue of The Oxford Journal by Sara Mattinson.

The swirl of stories printed and broadcast over this past weekend had me thinking about my father who died more than three years ago. Not him specifically, for he wasn’t a veteran, but rather what I learned from him and later, as Alzheimer’s took his stories, about him from my mother. 
These three facts of his life form the foundation of my father’s legacy: He was a funeral director, an associate member of the Legion in our hometown of Cobourg, Ontario, and a twice-defeated candidate for the federal Progressive Conservative party. 
Growing up, I saw my father’s values in his actions and his words: He was the “progressive” part of conservative, he didn’t gossip (I couldn’t even get him to tell me the name of the first girl he kissed), and he treated people with respect and compassion. He had a deeply-rooted sense of fairness. He also supported veterans and seniors wholeheartedly, making their concerns a priority when he ran in two elections. 
No matter what my father was doing, treating people with dignity was his guiding principle. My mother has told me that Dad never buried a person who had been institutionalized in the local provincial hospital in the cheapest casket, as stipulated by the government, because it was no better than a cloth-covered box; at his own expense, he upgraded to the next line. If the person had no family, he asked my mother to attend the brief service. 
This compassion stemmed from my father’s belief that how we treat the dead reveals how we treat the living, a concept in line with his guiding principle of dignity for all. I might take it one step further and suggest some people are more deserving than others. 
Let me be clear: I’m a passivist; I am not comfortable with confrontation of any kind, let alone war. I also don’t have what it takes to be a soldier so I respect the work these men and women do and have done and I am grateful that they are willing to put their lives at risk to protect a wimp like me. As well, I’m not actively involved in politics; I see too many sides to a story to toe a party line. But I seem to have inherited my father’s concern for seniors and veterans because the news coming out Ottawa is touching a chord with me.
Let me reshape my father’s idea: How we treat the living and the dead reveals what we are like as a civilized first-world country. Sometimes the ultimate sacrifice requires a little sacrifice from the rest of us. Instead of clawing back soldiers’ and veterans’ disability payments, we should be giving them that money tax-free; they’ve earned it. Instead of playing games for votes, replace the Sea Kings with their modern equivalent. Instead of rejecting 2/3 of the applicants to a federal fund for poor veterans, we should be paying for the funeral of everyone who has served in the military, even those who didn’t get shot at. 
And no cheap cloth-covered box, either. 
(While I realize that people make their own choices and misfortune happens, it also seems to be fundamentally wrong that a phrase like “poor veteran” should exist at all. And, of course, we haven’t eradicated child poverty, either.)
If I might step out of character and into the political ring for a moment, I’d like to say something to the leaders of this country, those of you who are Members of Parliament, a place my father always longed to be because he (naively) believed he could make a difference: How we treat those who are dead – killed in past and present military action or done in by age and infirmity – speaks directly to how we are treating those whose battles continue: our veterans, those wounded in military action, seniors – and, speaking as myself but also on behalf of my father for whom I am becoming a voice, what I’d like to say is Shame on you. 

This came in by email this morning, forwarded along so I don't know who originally created it, and it seems to go with this column:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Now I'm Prepared To Be Snowed In

The Veseys Seeds catalogue arrived in the mailbox yesterday. 172 pages of beautifull possibilities. Can't you just smell summer? Helped along by the cover shot of a hamburger covered by a slice of thick, juicy red tomato.
And look! A free sunflower garden with every order of $50 or more. Considering my wish list usually tops out at $250, I think I'll be enjoying those sunflowers.
Ahhh, it can snow any day now. It's easier to visualize the bee balm and oriental lilies and clematis when the world is white and I have to draw on images from the potting shed of memory.

Here's a classic catalogue cover from 1970:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Room With A View

The mother-in-law suite in our home -- or "loft" as my mother now refers to it as -- has a sunny exposure that is perfect for a dog bed which is perfect for snoozing or bird watching.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Find Christmas Magic in Saltscapes Magazine

I have had the pleasure of interviewing Art Brown twice, once as Santa Claus for the newspaper last year, and again as Art for Saltscapes in a profile titled, "The Art of Being Santa."
It's always great when the magazine uses the title you sent with the piece.
Each time I came away from my conversation with Art wondering, "What if...?" and "Could he really...?" He makes me believe that Santa exists...because he does...I think....
Art is such a natural in the role as Santa -- both in looks and character -- and it is a role he takes very seriously. You know those guys who age into looking like Santa but are pissy to kids who stare and point and call out Santa to them? Not Art. If a child looks at him with a particular gleam in his or her eyes, Art plays right along. He is beyond generous with his time and his self. The money Art earns during his six (official) weeks as Santa Claus gets donated to two or three families in need of help providing Christmas to their children.
He makes it impossible NOT to believe.

This is the delightful cover the Nov/Dec 2012 issue on the magazine racks now. Lots of good reads in it, including my profile of Art Brown.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

In Conversation With...Master Seaman Jeff Casey

First published in the November 7, 2012 issue of The Oxford Journal by Sara Mattinson.
A special conversation in honour of Remembrance Day...

You’d be forgiven for addressing Jeff Casey as “Captain” if you meet at the Cenotaph this coming Sunday” because, at 6-foot-4 and wearing his naval uniform, he makes a commanding impression. 
Master Seaman Casey, 39, is a non-commissioned member (NCM) of the Royal Canadian Navy. He’s in his 16th year and at Master Seaman, has achieved the highest rank for a junior NCM. Born and raised in Port Howe and still living on the family land, he joined the Navy in 1996 when he was 24 years old. 
“Me and five others guys went up to Moncton when we were in Grade 12 and went through the recruitment office but only three got in,” says Jeff. “Early in 1996, they called me back and wanted me to reapply.”
He went in as Naval Acoustic Operator, which meant he was hunting for submarines. Three years later, he left the Navy and worked in this area for nine months until returning to the Navy in August 2000 as an electrician.
“I was in cadets when I was younger and always liked the military aspect,” Jeff explains, “but I always wanted to be in the army. I joined the Navy because when they called me up the second time to ask me to reapply, by then I had Brandon and Tammy had Heather so we were a family. The Navy kept me on this coast. There’s only two spots you can go, the east coast or west coast, and I knew with a family and a house, they’d post me in Halifax.”
He says Tammy accepted his re-enlistment. 
“Not at first, though,” Jeff admits. “I have to give a lot of credit to Tammy and the kids [they have two sons now]. They put up with me being away and being in Halifax during the week, only coming home on weekends. When I’m deployed, I’m gone all the time. I don’t know how she does it. It’s hard knowing you’re going away and you won’t see land for awhile. It’s hard leaving the family.”
It’s become easier over the past 15 years, though.
 “Now, it’s just part of the job,” says Jeff. “We’re always pretty busy at sea. I’m an electrical technician so there’s a lot of stuff to fix. [As a working supervisor], it’s my job now to teach other young people how to do it.” 
  Jeff has just returned from deployment on the HMCS Charlottetown. It was an 8-month deployment for the ship but he was only on board for three months because he was flown over to Qatar to meet the ship in order to relieve a sailor whose wife was having a baby (that’s relatively new, since Jeff took his oath, getting time off for family matters and career courses). 
“You get deployed and they give you a number of months but with circumstances beyond our control, they can extend you for as long as needed.” 
That’s the way it was in September, 2001. 
“I was off the coast of Scotland when 9-11 happened,” Jeff recalls. “We were doing NATO exercises with the British and the Portuguese and we were eating supper on September 11 when we heard. We thought it was a training exercise because for training purposes, they make stories up, things that could happen in the world. We thought, ‘Oh, that’s a good one. Someone had a good imagination.’ Then the CO came over and said this is real. Everything went silent while we were eating.”
Back then, all they had was email on a diskette that came in once a day. There was no satellite television or Internet. 
“We didn’t know what was going to happen because no one knew,” he says. “We continued on with the NATO contingent. It wasn’t until mid-October that we were deployed to the Persian Gulf.”
When asked to described his most memorable event during his career, Jeff immediately recalls one from the very early years. 
“With NATO in 1997 on the HMCS Toronto. We’d just circumnavigated Africa and were coming into the Red Sea to  go through the Suez Canal when we were called for search and rescue to an island off the coast of Yemen that was pretty much just volcano. The volcano had erupted and Yemenis soldiers had gone into the water. We actually rescued one,” Jeff says. “I think he was the only one who was still alive. The US boat might have got one as well.”
Why does he remember it so vividly? 
 “Well, we were on watch for these guys 24/7 and we saw a live volcano erupt,” he explains. “Not many people get to see that. We were within a mile of it. This young Yemeni soldier was in the water for 22 hours and still survived.”
Jeff won’t soon forget his time in Afghanistan, either, where he volunteered to serve from February to July 2010. 
 “There’s a lot of naval guys over there. We do the security for the base, the  airfield. It was keeping track of who was on the airfield and I was a supervisor. There’s different tasking, like training some of the Afghani forces. It depends on your background,” Jeff explains. “I have a background in the boarding party, which is a special team on the ship that boards other ships to search for contraband and stuff like that. I’m no longer part of that but I used to be and it was a prerequisite for going to Afghanistan as part of the airfield security. I was never outside the wire, never did any combat.”
The thing about being on a ship is that once you’re on board, you don’t leave. You live, work and sleep in the same place, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Afghanistan was a unique experience. 
“It was different from a ship, that’s for sure!” Jeff says. “After our shift, we used to go and have coffee, like we can’t do on a ship. We’d work three 12 -hours shifts and get one day off to do laundry. It’s a lot different. I was carrying a sidearm 24/7. I had to have a weapon on me all the time.” 
Like most sailors, Jeff has seen a lot of the world. He says you start to take it for granted, like going to Portsmouth, England, again or flying into Qatar for the third time. 
“People in a rural community don’t know much about the military,” is Jeff’s observation. “They just know that guys go away, get deployed and come home. We all get the same question, ‘You home for awhile?’ but, no, I’m home for the weekend. That’s the way it is. They assume we’re sailing the whole time but when we’re alongside in Halifax, it’s a regular eight to four job like anyone has but there’s training we have to do and duty-watches on the ship. There’s someone on the ship 24 hours a day.”
Down in Halifax, he rents a room from a friend and on the weekends, he’s home with the family in Port Howe. 
Jeff has two sons. Alex is 12 and wants to join the Navy, but 17-year-old Brandon doesn’t. 
“I’ve missed a lot in 16 years,” Jeff admits. “I had that nine months when I was out but my shore posting the last two times was supposed to last two years but it lasted only 20 months. If you calculate it in the last 15 some odd years, I’ve been home for 5 years if you put them together.”
Jeff is not on his two-year leave right now; he’s back on a ship which means another four years at sea. In fact, he sails on November 19. 
 “I always do Remembrance Day in Oxford because I’m from here,” Jeff tells me. “I don’t consider myself a veteran so I go to pay respect to other members of past and present military who have lost their lives or been affected by war in any way. Nowadays, I think a lot of people forget exactly why Remembrance Day is held. I am proud to wear my uniform all the time but more so on Remembrance Day. It’s a big deal.” 
This is the part of our conversation when it seems to become more difficult for Jeff to express himself.  
“Don’t get me wrong,” he says, “I have a pretty good job and I signed the dotted line to do this; I wasn’t forced to do it. But I think a lot of people forget exactly what we do.”
It’s not hyperbole to say that Master Seaman Casey is giving his life to and for his country. 
“I’ve said ‘I might not come back.’ I hope it doesn’t happen but I wouldn’t think twice about doing this.”

MS Casey deployed on Monday, November 19 aboard HMCS Halifax.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Infinity, Possibility and the Night Sky

The spring of 2002 marked my return to Nova Scotia after ten years away. I'm not originally from here but we spent our family summer vacations on Pugwash Point starting in 1979. 1991 was the last time I visited and in 1996, I moved to Vancouver. I followed my heart  -- no, not my heart; I followed my head to Vancouver and it took five years for my heart to get through to me: "You are on the wrong coast." 
That first summer at the old farmhouse my parents had renovated a few years earlier involved some adjustment, mainly to the lack of light. The first time I drove into the village in the dark, I felt like someone had pulled black felt over my eyes. Beyond my headlights and the road they illuminated, all was black. 
At bedtime each night, I walked outside with the two dogs for the last piddle of the day (them, not me) and one evening, I happened to look up at the sky. I mean, way up and then I took a really good look at the night sky.
The book I was reading at the time was a collection of writings by Madeleine L'Engle and the most recent selection I'd read was about disaster. The roots of disaster are 'dis-' meaning away from, and '-aster', meaning star. A "dis-aster" means being separated from our stars, separated from what guides us.
As I'd stood there looking up at that vast night sky, I'd thought, "This sky makes me believe in infinite possibilities." Actually, it was my heart talking to me again. I'd just left my marriage and a job on the West Coast, moved across the country with no idea what I'd do next only to learn my father had Alzheimer's. In that moment, standing there in the backyard looking up into a sky I hadn't seen in the five years I'd been living in a big, well-lit city, I felt like I'd left the dis-aster of my life behind and I needed to believe that infinite possibilities lay ahead of me.
Which all leads me to these days, ten years later:
There are two different dogs to take outside now for the final piddle of the day but as the days get colder and darker earlier, the old dog refuses to get off the warm couch. So I take the young dog for a short walk up the lane. She wears a collar light bulb so that I can keep track of her in this country darkness, where there are no streetlights, and on this particular night, no full moon. When she was done her business, she tore back to the house, back to the warmth, leaving me up the lane alone.
Alone except for the one hundred billion stars above my head.
I don't go out after dark and look up at the sky as much as I should but when I do, I always think, "Infinite possibilities". With that view filling my eyes, how could I not think it, believe it? It's such a powerful vision. There is never a time not to believe in it. Only this time, in 2012, ten years on, there is no dis-aster to find my way back from, no wrong turns or lost paths. This time, I'm already on the path, taking a big leap forward, fearlessly, faithfully, on that path. I believe I believe I believe in infinite possibilities. 
As author Les Brown said,  Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land amongst the stars.

(Photo source: the Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, Nov. 2012)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sometimes, Appearances DO Matter

My mother and I drove into Halifax on Saturday morning and on our way, just a few kilometers east of the Oxford exit, we saw a dead deer lying in the median of the highway. It was lying partway up the slope, its legs sticking up in the air.
"Your husband told me that the Department of Natural Resources is no longer picking up dead deer and neither is the Department of Transportation. DOT crews have been told to roll them into the nearest ditch," my mother told me.
Can you imagine? But honestly, I'm not surprised. The "service" part of public service is falling by the wayside these days, particularly in Cumberland County.
When the politicians start squawking about tourism numbers being down, they might want to consider the sight of rotting carcasses along the TransCanada Highway. Nice way to greet visitors! "Enjoy the view of lupins and dead animals. ONLY in Nova Scotia." The only thing is, DOT in Cumberland County also has stopped mowing the sides of the road and the medians so I suppose the grass will simply grow up and cover the evidence. Is this the way to justify neglect and apathy?
When did we stop caring about appearances? The managers driving around in those yellow trucks must be blind.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Did You Know...?

I was just surfing the Internet looking for some information related to next week's "In Conversation With..." column when I discovered this piece of information:

William Buckley, of Buckley's Cough Mixture, was born here in Cumberland County. In Wallace, to be exact. He eventually ended up in Toronto where he founded the company that bears his name today.

Heck, I didn't even know Buckley's was Canadian let alone that Mr. Buckley was a local boy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be A Witch

First published in the October 31, 2012 issue of The Oxford Journal by Sara Mattinson.

When I told someone last year we were building onto our house because my mother was moving in with us, she said, “Ohmygawd! I could never live with my mother. She’s such a WITCH.”
For better or for worse, most women grow up to become a replica of their mothers and I have to admit, at a certain time of the year, if someone mentions a witch, it brings to mind my mother.
So this is how a writer’s mind works: I have a column to write that will be published on October 31. I’m not really into this particular event, haven’t worn a costume since high school, don’t have kids that make it necessary to create costumes and eat buy candy but it doesn’t make sense to write on any other subject when the column appears on Halloween. So I conjure up memories of how my mother did Halloween for her two young daughters in the seventies: our homemade costumes and the Halloween table cloth and going trick-or-treating in our neighbourhood in town then piling into the car to visit the relatives in the country (just like many people around here do). We had to visit Grandma and Grandpa, and Grampa and Gramma George, and Aunt Reta, and then the Stinsons on the way back home. That drive to the country was as much Halloween to us as the witch that hung on the wall of our dining room. 
But I didn’t remember the happy old crone, five-feet-tall with her striped stockings and huge warty nose, until I started thinking that maybe I could get away with writing a column that had nothing to do with Halloween. Just then, that woman’s comment from a year ago popped into my head. That’s the magic -- a little witch’s brew, perhaps -- that happens when a writer has to come up with topic (or she tries to avoid one). 
Because that witch hanging on the dining room wall was as fun and good-natured and familiar as my mother, as part of the magic she created for her two girls on Halloween as the old wig from the hair salon next door and her old fox fur coat that we tried to incorporate into one of our costumes every year.
It’s been a long time since I’ve worn a costume and that fur coat is long gone but perhaps this year, I’ll go as a writer. It’s a rather tricky kind of costume, cobbled together like Frankenstein’s monster. You can bring the candy to my office where I’ll be hunched over my computer (the Hunchback of Notre Dame), hacking away at my words (Norman Bates), trying to conjure up memorable phrases (the Sorcerer’s Apprentice), and hoping the readers like them (Sally Field winning an Oscar at the 1985 Academy Awards). 
Now that’s an ugly costume! 
On second thought, it might be easier to be a witch. Just like my mother.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Nova Scotia Music Awards

Congratulations to two Cumberland County singer-songwriters for winning at the recent Nova Scotia Music Week awards gala.
Christina Martin won Female Artist Recording for her album, "Sleeping With A Stranger," while her husband and music partner, Dale Murray, adds a win for Country-bluegrass Recording for his album, "Dream Mountain Dream" to his list of accomplishments. (Dale tied in that category)
They are currently on tour in Europe.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembrance Day 2012

Two days of the year are the most important, I think, because they both involve gratitude: Thanksgiving and today. Now that I'm working for a newspaper and have the honour to interview a veteran or serving military member for our Remembrance Day issue, I feel a much more personal connection to November 11 than I ever have. That's what I'm grateful for -- as well -- today.
Photographer Shaun Whalen provides The OJ with a beautiful and poignant cover photo every year and this is his offering for 2012:

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

In Conversation With...Kiersten Hiltz

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 by Sara Mattinson.

When asked to describe herself in three words, 20-year-old Kiersten Hiltz thinks for a long moment and comes up with determined, advocate, caring.
Three pretty serious words for such a young woman but her short life has been a pretty serious experience. 
Kiersten was born with spina bifida, which she describes as “a hole in my spine.” Surgery fixed it shortly after she was born but there was nerve damage, affecting her legs and leaving her with a visible disability. 
The Cumberland Early Intervention Program referred Kiersten and her family, who live in Oxford, to a program called SMILE for children ages three to 21 who have physical and development disabilities (SMILE stands for Sensory Motor Instructional Learning Experience). The 15-year-old program is run by student volunteers from Mount Allison University in Sackville who play with 55 children every Saturday morning at the YMCA in Amherst.
“It’s an hour in the gym or crafts or baking or just hanging out with other kids or the volunteers and an hour in the pool,” explains Kiersten who began the program when she was six. 
Of her first impression 14 years ago, Kiersten recalls a sense of belonging. 
“You go there and you’re like everyone else. I didn’t get asked questions. It’s not the questions that bug me; it’s the stares and the gawks. You don’t get those at SMILE. Everyone is too busy having fun to notice. Acceptance is the big thing.”
Kiersten isn’t a loud person. She is quiet and pretty with a lovely smile. But her words make a loud statement when she describes the impact the program has had on her life. 
“It’s the reason I am here today.” 
She says she reached a low point when she was 13, in junior high.
“Kids at school were mean and I was considered different. They didn’t understand, they didn’t ask, they just made their assumptions. I was ignored a lot. Thirteen is a hard age for anyone but for someone with a disability, it is worse.”
She pauses to take a deep, calming breath. Although this is painful for her to talk about, she isn’t upset or angry; she is matter-of-fact. As if this is another level of acceptance she has reached about her life with a disability. 
Going to the SMILE program every Saturday pulled her through those difficult times. 
“When you go, you can talk to anyone,” Kiersten says. “You are friends with everybody there. It’s about acceptance. You’re not different. They don’t make assumptions. You just fit in. Relationships are a big thing. Some of my best friends come from SMILE. They’ve been my friends for ten years. I keep in touch with them all the time.”
She admits she doesn’t have many friends in Oxford. 
“Halfway through my Grade 10 year, I developed a pressure sore and I was at home on bed rest for two-and-a-half years,” she says. “Only a few close friends and people from SMILE came to visit. I lost so many friends. They were too scared of what they didn’t understand. Bonnie [her longtime educational assistant] came to the house every day to help me with my schoolwork and she’d say, ‘So-and-so was asking about you’ and I’d think, Why aren’t they coming to visit me?” As Kiersten says each word, she smacks her hands together for emphasis. “Come here. I’m here. Don’t go through someone else. I’d known them since preschool. They knew me well enough to come.”
Although she graduated from high school at the same time as her peers, surgery forced her to put off attending college until recently. 
 “Going to college is better,” she says, “but there’s still a level of not fitting in because I can’t do certain things or go certain places. I find ways to go but it still creates anxiety for me. Once I get there, am I going to be able to get around? You really have to fend for yourself.”
When she says this, it occurs to me how close the word ‘disability’ is to ‘invisibility’.  
Kiersten remains baffled as to why people are so reluctant to befriend a person with a disability. 
“They don’t understand and they’re too scared of what they don’t understand. They don’t want to ask about it. I still try to change that but it doesn’t seem to work.” 
Despite the hurt she’s endured, she remains determined to raise awareness. 
“I try to talk to them, tell them it’s okay, I’m not going to give them what I have. It’s not contagious,” she laughs. 
This is Kiersten’s motivation for enrolling in a one-year program at NSCC in Springhill called Community Disability Supports. She will put it towards a Human Services concentration with the ultimate goal of opening up her own program like SMILE. Part of her motivation comes from her own experience since 2010 as a volunteer buddy for a 6-year-old boy.
“I love it. It’s my entire life. It’s the light of my life,” she says with a beautiful smile. “If you’re having a crappy week, going to SMILE and seeing the kids makes it all worth it. There’s a little boy who has cerebral palsy and he is the happiest kid I’ve ever seen. He has severe cerebral palsy yet he’s so happy. It gives you a perspective check.”
The three words I would use to describe Kiersten Hiltz? 
Courageous, compassionate, inspiring. 

For more information on the SMILE program, go to

Monday, November 05, 2012

Restoration That's Good for the Soul

My husband has painted and new-stickered the 1958 Massey Ferguson tractor that his father gave him (his dad uses the "newer" 1989 tractor down at the old farmstead), making this sweet, hard-working machine look mighty fine.
It's just a reminder, though, that no one is farming anymore. Okay, I know that's not true; lots of people, brave, hardworking, dedicated people, are starting up small farms. Not hobby farms but farms that produce food without big machines or large barns. Visit a farmers' market and buy some of this "homegrown" food to find out why farms, these small farms, are so vital. We get the BEST sausages from our friend, Janet Rose, in Linden. She works so very hard.
We would like to keep a cow and a pig and some meat kings for food but we can't afford to build a small barn for them or better yet, buy the farm next door that's going fallow now that my husband's uncle has retired. And I think of how hard Janet, and Jennifer, and everyone else I know who is doing this small-farm thing works and I think about what an noble life being a farm can be. We can't lose it, we really can't.
Restoring a tractor long-used in the family in "the good old days" is simply a labour of love.