Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Car Has A "Start-Ache"

Today it was sunny and cold...just below freezing and with a chilling breeze. Wearing a black fox fur trimmed winter coat, I walked to my car in the parking lot. My hair appointment at Klippings was at 10 AM. As per usual habit, I glanced at the tires...all OK; the windows were need for the scraper; the side mirrors correctly positioned. I turned the key in the ignition – DEAD! - no response! Why? What could be wrong? I mentally oil change two months ago...a 30 Point Prevention Maintenance Inspection six months ago.

In the past couple of weeks, the gear shift in my 2007 Chrysler Sebring has been very stiff, often difficult to move from Park to Drive and Drive to Park. Perhaps the cold weather? I hadn't been out with my vehicle for three days. Of consideration, after I have driven for several minutes, the stick shift seems a little smoother. Mechanically, I know nothing (but then I cannot be good at everything!). This is why I have my “wheels” serviced regularly. I recall that about a month ago, when going out for the evening, it would not start with turn of key in the ignition. SURPRISE! This never happened before! I was stunned! Why? On the second attempt, success! All this now preyed on my mind.

My immediate concern this morning was that I could possibly be late for my appointment with Kelly. This car needs DR. Mechanic! I turned the key again...NOTHING! I try to push the Park a trifle more to the left...then with the key turn, the engine started! There was extreme “tightness” in positioning the stick shift to Drive. I traveled north on Walker's Line, exiting to the QEW West and then the cut-off to 403 Hamilton...and ramp to Waterdown Road. Her salon is now only about two minutes away. This bi-monthly visit to her is my Beautification Day. I feel so hair like silk and skillfully styled...with pride I leave her salon. the RBG (Royal Botanical Gardens), about one kilometer west of here on Plains Road West.

Hope, for no problem! I inserted the key and turned Sebring starts! Amen! Difficult to shift to Drive...very stiff! Since I was delivering a letter to the RBG's front desk, I intended to park directly in front of the main doors with my flashers on; however, the space was occupied by a Handicap Van unloading seniors with walkers and wheel chairs. They were here to view the amazing exhibits, the Gift Shop, the Mediterranean Gardens, the Cafe. the newly built waterfall viewed from the lower level. Along the side of the building are several park areas for handicap drivers...where I parked my auto. Observing these seniors as they slowly (and some with great physical effort) descended the van, their faces were embraced with smiles in anticipation of their visit here. The day's weather was Beautiful! The opportunity Wonderful for these golden agers! Memory of my Birthday celebration here on St. Patrick's Day...lunch with Sherrie in the Garden Cafe!

Now to Danny's Nails for a much needed pedicure. Unlocking my car, I trusted and willed it to start...No Way! I felt almost defeated...and would need to call CAA for assistance, more likely, towing to a garage! Tried once Sebring sprang to Life!

The staff at Danny's is Vietnamese...always very friendly and personable. Today, Tina was my attendant. The hour I spend here is relaxing, soothing and my feet thrive on the treatment. I reclined in comfort with an automatic back massager for my aching muscles. My feet were in warm to hot water at the base of the chair. A flat-screen TV in front of me showed local news and interviews. Tina gloved her hands and expertly began my pedicure session. First she removed the old nail polish and replaced each foot back into the warm water. She tended to the toe nails and to the removal of calluses along my insteps. The lady next to me was well tanned...just returned from Florida...we chatted. Tina, with her hands and lotion massaged my feet thoroughly; then with special brushes and cream, smoothed the skin. She recommended a massage scrub treatment with a rich yellow lanolin and sea salt (like a salve) because of the dry skin on each calf. This exfoliation process felt velvet-like and totally smoothing.

Drying my feet, she placed them in thong-type slippers; with cotton placed between the toes, she painted the nails with my colour of choice...a rosy-coral. I clumsily walked to another chair where my feet were placed below a dryer to “dry the nail polish”. During this 20 minutes, I solved today's crossword puzzle and scanned a fashion magazine...and wondering also about my vehicle. Tina assisted me with my stockings and shoes...and with a promise, I would return again soon.

My car started...but had difficulty shifting to Drive! Deciding to forego a couple other errands, I immediately drove to Active Green + Ross, my garage choice for the past 4 or 5 years. To Joel, the service advisor, I explained my problems, stating, “I hope this is not a costly repair.” He didn't think so. There was a comfortable lounge area where customers can wait. It was now 12:50 PM. The sun shone brightly through all windows...across the street, the Go Station parking ramp and beyond, the skyline of the escarpment; a few customers in and out or waiting for their car repairs. As always, the front counter personnel were attentive to their customers' needs. I ascertained I would be here for an hour or more. I located today's Toronto Star and spent time browsing through the various sections. I located the Sudoku puzzle to solve and read the Bridge column. An auto magazine lay on a table in front of me...good for several minutes of reading. I noticed also a heavy hard cover book about Hot Rods...magnificent colour photos of cars back to 1932 through to the 70's. My Dad would have loved to own one of these in his day! I contemplated again about my car's ailments, aware it needed care and what cost? Other customers were waiting in my area. I sauntered to another corner where there were a few magazines. Soon, Joel called , “Merle”.

He explained that, “The cables below the gear plate were totally dry...very rare for an automatic transmission, especially on a vehicle with only 50,000 k of travel distance. The cables have been well lubricated with lots of guck...the gears now move as smooth as butter.” He couldn't guarantee this wouldn't occur again...but should not be an ongoing problem. Giving me a copy of the invoice, my car's problem was diagnosed through a Transmission Pinpoint Inspection. I owed $59.87 (based on $100 per hour labour...took the technician 50 minutes, disposal of waste and tax).

Such a joy to walk to my silver Sebring, have an immediate start at the turn of the key and then the now ever-so-smooth transition from Park to Drive. I was elated! The day now seemed brighter and sunnier! My next stop was for gas at $1.24 per litre at Petro-Canada. I pumped $20 into the tank and with my card, had an 80 cent discount.

Merle Baird-Kerr
March 30, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Blue Jeans and High Heels

She entered my “Grand Homes” Sales Office in Brantford, Ontario. Her husband, Yvon, was recently
transferred from a Montreal-based business to an industry in this city...nestled along the eastern bank of the Grand River, its long southerly route meandering through the countryside, towns and cities to its Lake Erie destination.

Tall and statuesque, Maureen embodied a casual statement of chic fashion. Never before had I seen a woman clad in well-fitted blue jeans, a crisp white cotton blouse with ruffled collar and cuffs...and imagine this with strappy stiletto- heeled shoes. Wow! The norm for me in those days was to pair jeans with a tee-shirt and (if affordable) cushioned Nike runners.

She and Yvon spoke fluent English, making known they needed a home built with a closing date not to exceed six months from this current day. We discussed the family requirements and locations of schools for their three children.

A house design was selected with a decision to return the following day to sign contract papers together with deposit cheques. I gave them a site plan, city maps, information about The Telephone City...its recreation and community activities. For easy reference, I highlighted the school locations and advised them of 2 or 3 local motels for their weekend sojourn. With delighted smiles, they exited the Sales Office with a cheery “Au Revoir”. Again, I noted her fashion ensemble, impressed with this Montreal-style that I could easily adopt.

By appointment, Yvon and Maureen arrived early the next day to sign the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, submit the deposit others, post-dated, based on the house construction stages. Then, following two to three hours of numerous selections of home finish...e.g. roof, brick and siding trim, paint colour for exterior doors and windows, interior wall paint, cabinetry, ceramic tiling and broadloom. I observed her Saturday apparel, which instilled in me her fashion-conscious, light blue denims, sky-blue sweater, navy high wedge shoes. Her makeup and accessories...impeccable! Yvon was strongly French in character and physique...casually dressed...and receptive to Maureen's choices pertaining to the finishing of their “Grand Home”.

It was summer when they moved here. I was introduced to Annette, a pretty teenager with long brunette hair who'd be attending High School...also Claire and Jacques, both in lower grades. Maureen and I became friends, occasionally meeting for tea or coffee. A couple years later, she invited me for a confidential “rendez-vous” in her home.

The move to Ontario had been two-fold...a new life for her and Yvon and a new environment for their children. Yes, this had been positive! But, the abusive traits of her husband were still prevalent and continual on an almost daily basis. Divorce papers were pending...the house would remain hers in the settlement. To prepare for this transition, she enrolled in a Business course to upgrade her skills for a potential job.

She felt akin to me...I was a divorcee with two children to raise. Together, we commiserated, discussed the challenges of financially coping and fulfilling the parental duties of “Mother and Father” within the household. Her personal strength and determination carried her through this traumatic ordeal...she quickly became self-sufficient, anticipating this next phase of her life.

Among the associates advancing their skills for job qualification and promotion was Mac. He was tall and lithe, having retired from a basketball career and now stepping into the Business world. They became mutually attracted and each “good company” for the other. Maureen's children respected Mac, especially Jacques. All soon realized this was a “match made in heaven”. He was gentle and kind, enthralled with this “ready-made-family”. The following year they were married in a quiet ceremony.

Within a year Mac developed stomach cramps and severe pains. Doctors diagnosed the symptoms to be possibly indicative of ulcer(s). When all medication and treatment failed, exploratory surgery revealed he was full of cancer...and terminally ill! “How could this happen? He is the Love of my Life”, Maureen sobbed. She was totally devastated! Retreating to her inner self, she lost her steadfastness and positive-drive ability. “Now, what?”, she asks me. “You have three children, dear friend, although Yvon shows little interest in them, except for Jacques. My Mother would remind me, 'God will Provide' ”, as I tried to soothe her troubled mind. Her priorities switched. Her children and her job became essential. For three or four years, these were her “focus”.

She became involved in a few community activities to restore her sanity...and there she met David at a dinner meeting held a local Golf and Country Club one evening. Sitting at the same table for ten...overlooking a small lake with a regatta of sails in the wind, she silently reminisced about Montreal and The St. Lawrence River. Back to reality, she was aware of David sitting beside her, conversation ensued; she discovered that his wife had died two years previously of cancer and in this grieving time, he felt like a “lost soul”. A great friendship grew and respect for each other. David had reddish-blonde hair, totally different than Yvon and Mac...yet they shared a common bond.

Annette was now attending McMaster University in Hamilton and boarding with a student in a Westdale home. Claire and Jacques, both in High School,were content and happy with new-found friends. Life seemed Good! David had an enterprise he yearned to investigate and asked Maureen to accompany the Okanagan Valley in central British Columbia. She could not possibly fathom leaving Brantford, leaving her three children, leaving her job to “gallivant” with David to some place far remote. When he told her of an unparalleled variety of climate and landscape, hoodoos, orchards, vineyards, mountains, valleys, lakes, highlands, ski slopes and trails, dozens of parks surrounding Okanagan Lake... literally an adventure playground, she was thrilled at the prospect of this “dream holiday”! She gave him a three-week-limitation (her vacation time). “Then, we'll fly,”he told her. “But what if...?” she asked him. All was resolved: Annette had a summer job in Hamilton, Jacques would stay with his Father for hopefully a satisfactory Dad/Son reunion to rebuild their relationship As for Claire, I invited her to my daughter for company and friendship.

After their three-week-dream-cation, both returned ecstatic about, not only their combined interests and affection, but the joy of living in this scenic part of British Columbia. The enterprise was a combination of boat rentals, arrangements for fishing equipment and lures for tourists and vacationers. While there, they rented a house beside the lake which would be theirs, should they accept the position offered through David' associate friend.

Within a few months, David and Maureen were married. The lives of her children were all now established. Only Claire would move with them to complete her education in The Okanagan. Jacques chose to live with his Father, and by now, Annette had a full time job. With great pleasure, I attended their wedding...with tears in my eyes for their well-deserved happiness!

I sometimes wonder if she still wears Blue Jeans and High Heels.

Merle Baird-Kerr
July 18, 2010

(Note: This is a true story. Locations and names have been changed.
I post at this was in March that I met Maureen and Yvon.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Oddities in Life

Life cannot be categorized! Each day dawns , often bringing unexpected things that perhaps alter our plans for better or for worse. Many carry little surprises that brighten our it a child's innocent words, be it humour, a gift, a visitor or unforeseen action.


In my teen years, I played ladies' fastball on local team. My father, a lover of ball games, would occasionally take me to see the Brantford Red Sox play baseball. Programs were given to each paying spectator with the line-up of team players, their stats and other facts of interest. At the 7th “inning stretch” lucky numbers were drawn. I won...a case of ginger ale and movie tickets to the Capital Theatre. I was thrilled! My father claimed the pop to carry but rejected the tickets (which to him promoted the sins of Hollywood). At this, I was disappointed.


During the summer of my second year teaching, I toured Europe. The passengers on the bus ranged from university students to senior citizens. A middle-age couple, Frank and Eleanor from Toronto, befriended all of us. In Cologne we stopped to see and view the renowned Cathedral. Eleanor had risen early to walk along a street adjacent to our hotel. While window shopping, before the stores opened, she was admiring some clothing. Suddenly, a local man “pinched her butt” in jest. She was humiliated and emotionally upset when returning quickly to the hotel. Misunderstood and unknown to us, their son had been shot down and killed over Cologne during World War II.


We lived in a townhouse complex; the mailboxes were at the end of the hallway. Daily I would take my little boy to retrieve the mail. Since our box was on the top row, I lifted him up to turn the key, open the small door and pull the mail. At one time he dropped a letter, exclaiming, "Oh S _ _ _!”. I smilingly told him this was not a good word! That evening, I related the incident to my husband who frequently used this four-letter-word, admonishing him to refrain its use in front of children.

Very safe it was, then, to allow children to play outside. When he was about 4, my son came home crying because Brent had hit him! Consoling him, I advised him to go back and find Brent...and hit him unexpectedly. A few minutes later looking downcast and dejected, I asked, “Why?” His reply, “Brent won't stand still for me to hit him!”

My little girl, learning to talk, was unable to speak words beginning with tr....With Grandma in the car with us one day and seeing a big red transport carrier said, “Look at the fruck, Mommy.” Grandma was shocked and stunned.


When is this? Every 2 years? A woman came to my door asking the usual long had I lived here? Was I a Canadian citizen, etc. Holding my daughter in my arms, she asked, “Are you working?”
Yes...every day! “What is your vocation?” I'm a Home Economist! Whenever an official asks me these questions, my answers vary: I'm a Teacher. I'm a Nurse. I'm a child psychologist. I'm a psycho-analyst. “You're not a Stay-at-Home-Mom?” Yes, I'm that too!


My son had graduated from the University of Windsor with a degree in Computer Science. He was fortunate in securing a job here in Burlington. Within a couple years he met Beth, who later became his wife. One evening he treated us to a movie at the Showcase on Harvester Road...his sister, Beth and me. He advised the young cashier that Marcia was a High School student. The cashier quickly looked at me and stated, “Two adults, a student and a senior.” None of us disputed this! I was stunned and surprised!
Realizing she would associate me with her mother, I was obviously "old" also! Why should I care? To her, I qualified for a Senior Discount! Thereafter, I asked for Senior Rates!


Church billboard signs always fascinate me with their messages...short and quip...often inspirational!

In a breakfast diner, Winstead, Connecticut, I recently saw this sign:

Open...Most days about 10, maybe 9.
Occasionally as early as 7, but some days
as late as 12 or 1.
We Close about 5 or 6,
occasionally 4 or 5,
but Some Days or Afternoons, we
Aren't here at All, and lately
I've been here About All the Time,
Except when I'm Someplace Else,
But I should be There Too!

Yesterday, on the Notice Board of my Seniors' Residence was this which I share with you:

Bless us who are “Young and Restless”,
sometimes, “Bold and Beautiful”.
Help us to remember, there is “Another World”
which we can build on when we turn our hearts to you,
our “Guiding Light”.
“As the World Turns” on “The Edge of Night”,
may we “Search for Tomorrow”
better ways to love one another
“All the Days of Our Lives.”

Merle Baird-Kerr
March 28, 2011

"Simple Pleasures"

Life's simple little pleasures and priceless moments are little satisfying effects you never really anticipated but always take pleasure in...they are Gifts of Life that we subconsciously celebrate in our unique way. How easily we may bypass these moments without recognition...and their significance soon to be forgotten!


This became major to me in mid December, 2010 when my computer crashed ...and without its use for several weeks. Consider that daily I play Duplicate Bridge on line (BBO) with various partners; that daily read and send e-mails; that I frequently research information from Internet! I was Lost! This could not be rectified until my son (working in Calgary) returned home for the Christmas/New Year season. He gave me an old “flat screen” of his; then spent hours and hours installing a new system that would work. Explorer was kaput! Linux and Wine work compatibly well together and gave Life to my computer and a Life back to me. The old version of BBO called “the thick client”only performed sporadically...causing numerous disconnections in mid-games. Consequently, I had to resort to the “thin client” (a newer version of BBO with which I was not familiar. I had to re-educate myself with this new format. But WHOOPIE! I was able to play bridge for 2 hours or more without disconnection.
This was MONUMENTAL! And truly a Wonderful Simple Pleasure!


Friends have long been persuading me to Blog! There are numerous articles, both essay type and prose, that I have written over the past couple of years. This legacy should be preserved, I am told. By utilizing Team Viewer 6, Andrew has been walking me through the process of Blog Writing. First, a dear friend spent hours showing “How to Create a Document” from my writings and developing that process in my mind; my son now puts me again in “foreign territory.” For users who are familiar with computer technology, this is a cinch! I tell my son frequently, “It's easy when you know how!” My learning process is to list “step by step” numerically What do Do! From 3,000 miles away, this is a FEAT! So easy to become frustrated! My old screen saver had a dramatic picture of Yosemite Falls which was a unique photo of scenic drama...loved the view since we had visited that Park. The current flat screen had a pastel blue unidentifiable abstract. In the midst of my challenge to achieve some ability to “post” a written article from the document form, he installed a stunning aerial view of Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de my new screen saver! WOW! It filled my whole screen! Gave me such Pleasure!!! When Andrew was 4, I took him to South America to visit his father's relatives in Chile. After 8 weeks there, we spent a weekend in Buenos Aires with friends from Hamilton. Lastly, a week in Rio. Magnificent! We rode the aerial and cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain which he remembers well. Each day I use the computer, this Simple Pleasure still meets my eyes with wonder and amazement at its amazing beauty!

Sugar Loaf Mountain is a peak situated in Brazil at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Rising 1,299 feet above the harbour, its name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined sugar. The mountain is only one of several monolithic morrows of granite and quartz that rise straight up from the water's edge in Rio. A glass paneled cable car, capable of holding 65 passengers runs along a 1,400 metre route between two other peaks every 20 minutes. The original cable car was built in 1912 and rebuilt 1972/73 and in 2008. To reach the summit, a passenger takes 2 cable cars. The Italian-made bubble-shape cars offer passengers a 360 degree view of the city and its young mountains, Copacabana Beach and the necklace-shape Bay.


Learning and trying to master a few computer techniques has been frustrating at times...which is expected to be when attempting something outside one's range of knowledge. When I successfully published a blog, a dear friend wrote, “You are certainly the Lovely Bird of Paradise taking flight.” I was so impressed! Those 10 words “made my day”, making my little woes seem so trivial!


In the early September 2010, we were traveling from Ohio, crossing the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit and overnighting in Leamington for the ferry boat visit to Pelee Island and its winery the next day. Returning the following late afternoon eastbound along the 401, the sky was a palette of blues and grays, possibly forecasting rain. The clouds darkened. Like a gorgeous curtain that closes a marvelous stage performance, we viewed double rainbow width sheets of pastel and abstract shadings
descending from the upper sky to the lush green countryside dampened with fresh rain. This spelled Good Luck and Magnificence! It was the climax to a beautiful day, to a beautiful Tennessee vacation.
If an artist had painted this sky-wonder, a viewer would have questioned its authenticity!


We live in the heart of Escarpment Country. The night view is stunning as one drives from the Ancaster hill or Clappinson's Corners into the city below. Suddenly, as one approaches the escarpment edge, a spectacular fairy-land vista is revealed...thousands of twinkling lights, the graceful Skyway Bridge silhouetted against the midnight sky, the curvature of lights surrounding the shorelines of Bay and Lake. My senses are excitedly stirred every time I view this superb scene...unsurpassed anywhere else in Southern Ontario.


My apartment has a northwest view. It is a pleasure to enjoy morning coffee and the newspaper as I breakfast on the balcony...this morning it is a “terrace”. I had observed that there was a sort of collection of twigs and grasses on a black wrought iron chair. I sauntered to the far side of the table facing the morning sun and overlooking street activity. As I opened the screen door (to get a coffee refill), I glanced back and SURPRISE! A BIRD was sitting on this raggedy nest! It looked like a dove...yes, a Mourning Dove! I sat about 24 inches from her...and she didn't say a word! This was the beginning of a saga which I chronicled daily about Rosie, her mate and the eggs which hatched 14 days later. (See my articles entitled, From Nuisance to Miracle in 4 parts). What a Study this was to observe the incubating, the 24 hour daily “sitting” by both parents, the chatter between them and the hatching of two healthy babies. A Moment of Surprise...then excitement of becoming “Grandmother”.


It was Wednesday morning, going to Klippings for a salon appointment. On the radio I heard a wonderful rendition of Autumn Leaves. Yes, I've heard this song for many years (and if you are like me, I hear the melody and love it, but pay little attention to the lyrics). These words I had heard...had not realized it was about a sad relationship. The male voice was so emotional, that I concurred with him and sympathized with his situation. The violins to me cried tears, as did my eyes. I must have this piece of music to enjoy again and again! The vocal was by Ozzie Bailey. At Indigo, the attendant was most helpful in locating this band on a CD by Duke Ellington...only vocal on it. What a Treasure!


The most spiritual moment for me was at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona at sunrise. I was on a trek home, driving my son's van from California to southern Ontario. (You can read about “An Incredible Journey” in a blog that I shall later post). This experience was in early November, 2001
when locals strongly recommended I view the 1,000 feet higher side than the South Rim, at sunrise. Arriving there at 6:15 this chilly one around...only a brown Park vehicle...the still trees, no breeze...only the quiet of Nature! As I stepped from the Honda van, my breath froze in the frigid air.
As the sun broke the eastern horizon, I heard a few bird tweets as they welcomed the morning. I felt like the First Woman...maybe the Last Woman on Earth. The drama of this view is impossible to describe. It was soul-searching! The upper edge of the canyon walls were first illuminated by the warm rising sun rays; then gradually deepened into the rock layers carved over millions of years. The depth was something dramatic as it opened before my eyes, gradually revealing the Colorado River
far below...looking more like a narrow ribbon as it wound its way turbulently through the chasm.


When Marcia was 14 years, she had been an equestrian, riding for about 6 years at Bertin Stables in Oakville. She had a bevy of friends who enjoyed this recreational challenge. One morning, Jim called requesting Marcia to join Neal to participate in a Jumper Event in Caracas,Venezuela...the class being 14 years and under. Sandra, Jim's wife would be leaving the following day. (Apparently, the Canadian Equestrian Federation had sent a rider who was 14 at time of application, but now 15 at time of this event disqualified.) A coach friend from Puerto Rico had notified Jim. Yes, I agreed...however, Marcia had no passport, but Jim felt certain his wife could get her on the plane with Neal, their son. No Way! She called me from Toronto to come, get her. We stopped and had passport photos taken; I submitted an application for Passport on Tuesday explaining the urgency; a few complications were resolved. She flew on Wednesday to Florida, changing flights to Caracas. On Wednesday evening Neal selected a horse for her to ride...suitable to her it would be for him (both being gutsy riders). Nine countries were represented in the events from Thursday to Sunday inclusive. Our Canadian riders placed 3rd overall. When on Sunday, I returned home from a Realtors' Open House, the telephone was ringing. Jim Bertin was So Ecstatic! Marcia had won the Sunday's Grand Prix Jumper Derby...riding a magnificent horse over high fences...she and this horse bonded so well together. Can you imagine my thrill to hear this good news? Never even anticipated that our Canadian riders would do so well. They brought home a few trophies...the Big One, she carried home very proudly! And it all began with an innocent and unexpected simple pleasure of being invited to represent her country.


When I was teaching Grades 5 and 6 in elementary school, I taught all subjects except French. I was musically talented ...these studies were enjoyed by my students. Every year a grand-scale Music Festival was held at downtown's Hamilton Place. The Music Supervisor, who 3 or 4 times a year visited our classrooms, invited me to assemble a Boys' Choir from our school. I was hesitant to act on this...a new endeavor! With encouragement from both Principal and Supervisor, I accepted. Needing about 30 boys, I held “tryouts” for qualified voices. Jerry was most disappointed when sadly I had to reject him...he couldn't hold his pitch and unable to sing “on key”. His parents contacted me and confided how unhappy Jerry felt. He came and begged, “Please, let me sing in your choir.” I called in the parents for a discussion. It was evident Jerry was keen (and not a disturbing student); to him it would be a monumental experience! I gave them a “conditional yes”. He was to attend all practices. He was to learn the words of both songs. He was to dress accordingly as required. Lastly, he must Not Sing orally! He must “sing with expression and a smile upon his face”...mouthing the words! He was one Happy Jerry who returned home at 4 PM. His parents were thrilled! Yes, he fulfilled all the conditions. The happiest boy in the choir on Festival Night was Jerry who “sang on stage at Hamilton Place”. This experience still brings tears to my eyes. How significant are the Little Things in Life! How Big this was for Jerry!

Recently at a social luncheon, the following two stories were related by a couple dear friends;
I share these with you since they embody the true meanings of Simple Pleasures.


For many years my family lived in Kampala, Uganda (a British Colony) in East Africa. My father was a business man owning 4 lumber mills, 7 houses, numerous cars (e.g. Jaguar, Mercedes, Peugot) and trucks. He entertained business associates in fine style. As British subjects, he could carry on business in Uganda combined with connections in England.

I was born with “a silver spoon in my mouth”! We were blessed with riches beyond our imagination! In our household we had nannies and servants. Never did I iron clothes, clean bathrooms, make my bed, do laundry or bake in the kitchen! We had gardeners. We had chauffeurs who drove us to Private British Schools. Living in Uganda, I learned to speak five languages. I had expensive clothes and perfumes which my father imported from England. I had the Best of Everything!

After Grade 12, my two sisters, older brother and I were sent to England to study in Colleges and Universities. My father provided us each with separate apartments. Following two years of study and with high academic accomplishments, I was admitted to Medical College at my father's request. I felt that this vocation, he wanted for me, was not my interest. After two years I left and became a flight attendant with BOAC.

When Uganda gained its independence from England, we had to renounce our British nationality and become Ugandan citizens in order to remain living in this country, maintaining our family business and lifestyle. All the necessary paperwork was completed in full...and with Passports.

Ugandan economy was run by Asians, mostly business men. Idi Amin, the Military Dictator decided to inherit Asia's money and businesses by declaring that “we were no longer Ugandan citizens”. All our assets were frozen! We were given 90 days to find a new home and leave Uganda.

We were unable to fight for our rights in front of the Ugandan Army!
The United Nations could do nothing to help us!
The British Government would not accept us since we had renounced our British nationality.

All of a sudden, in the “blink of an eye”, in April 1972, we had lost father, millions of dollars and I thousands from my savings. Our Lifestyle was in ruin! In desperation, we contacted the Canadian Embassy in Kampala. They were receptive to accepting us as eligible “landed immigrants” in October 1972. The Embassy arranged and paid for flights to Montreal. I came with $7.00 in my pocket. We were housed in Army Barracks. The Salvation Army was very generous by providing us with shelter and warm clothing. The Canadian Government was providing those Ugandan Refugees who were unable to find work right away with a $25.00 weekly allowance.
Within six months, part of my family settled in St. Catharines near relatives. My younger brother at age 14, was offered a lumber mill job in Prince George, British Columbia. I rejected this offer, and taking full responsibility for him, came to Vancouver since the only person we knew here was my aunt. We had to find JOBS! I was very fortunate to find a full time position, being here only four days because of my Private British School education. I rented a one-bedroom unfurnished apartment. He found odd jobs at gas stations, etc. We lived and food supply was limited; we had one bed...took turns sleeping on it ...or the floor!

My Family was in Canada (except for my parents). We were grateful to the Canadian Government for accepting us to settle in this country as Refugees.

The Little Things in Life, now had Significance and created Appreciation for what we now had.
Thank you, Shoppers' Drug Mart for displaying their expensive perfumes in sample bottles. I recall my
girlfriend and I went there every day to wear “sample perfumes” whenever we could afford to go out.

My younger brother, now an adult, is living in Toronto. After several successful years in a business career and the purchase of my own beautiful Condo Apartment in Richmond, BC, I moved in September, 2009 to Burlington to be near family...adjusting to a new environment, developing new friendships and learning to play Bridge!


Over the years, I have volunteered at a Retirement Home, working and meeting so many wonderful people; some will touch your life...and at the same time, break your heart.

John, who is 93 and his wife, Anna, 90 are two such people that I greatly cherish. They live together in this home, happily spending their days.

John, up until recently, still enjoyed his daily bridge game; however, Anna has shown no interest in any type of card game. One afternoon, I had the opportunity to entertain the ladies. I announced that we were going to play cards. Anna started to walk away, insisting she knew nothing about cards. Quickly I persuaded her to stay...convincing her this was an easy game of matching them into pairs and I would sit beside her. She agreed to participate.

At the end of the game, surprisingly Anna won with the most “matching pairs”.
With me, there was “a huge but”!
It was now time for me to hand out the prizes. The bag contained a lot of candy; also in the bag was a pair of pretty pink slippers. For one split second, I thought, “How can I possibly give these slippers to Anna and the rest just candy?” Quickly I assessed the circumstances:

I had such compassion for this darling little lady who has never left her husband's side
(so devoted, they are to each other);
John is now wheelchair bound and had recently suffered a heart attack.

My decision was immediate! With the pink slippers in hand, delightedly I announced that Anna had won the game prize. She was emotionally amazed and with tears in her eyes, acknowledged that she was undeserving of this gift since playing cards was something she had never done. Yet, very proudly, she pranced around like a princess, showing everyone her prize. She is the kindest and most loving person one would ever want tv
Anna is known now to me as “Mrs. Pink Slippers”!

Merle Baird-Kerr
March 27, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

How Sharon Cut The Sandwiches

Nine months after Andrew was born, I returned to the teaching profession. A good friend and neighbour, Sharon, had a little boy, Mark, one month younger. Each day, I left my son with her...she now had "twins" and cared for them accordingly. She could write many stories, I am confident, about her “boys”. When he was 4, he raved about Sharon's sandwiches at lunch time. I asked him what was so special about them. “They look and taste so good!” he replied. I enquired from Sharon who told me of the fillings she used. Not to disappoint my little boy, I tried to duplicate her preparation. But to him, “they never tasted the same”. It was more than 40 years later that I discovered her secret. On Friday August 20, 2010, he wrote from Calgary:

Dear Mom,
I think we've discussed this point before, from a certain event of about 42 years ago.

I would like to remind you that I thoroughly enjoyed staying with Mark all day. I still remember those days very fondly.

One day, whilst Mark and I were sitting at the kitchen table, Sharon (he called her Sherno) took a whole unsliced loaf of bread. It was a traditional cuboid shape of bread loaf, but it was unsliced.

Sharon had something you didn't have: she had an electric knife. I had heard of an electric can opener, although we didn't have one. But I had never heard of an electric knife. So I watched in fascination.

You recall that Sharon had some counter space between the food prep area and the dinette. There were cupboards above this space, with their two and a half vertical feet of working area between the counter and the cupboard.

It was upon this counter that Sharon stood this unsliced bread loaf vertically, upon which she used her electric knife. (It fascinates me to this day that Sharon was only about 21 at the time.)

Using her electric knife, Sharon sliced the loaf into long thin slices.

On each of these long slices, she spread toppings – peanut butter and jam, I think. Then she rolled them up into a cylindrical shape. She did not cut the cylinders into thin slices, but served the sandwich as a cylinder, about four inches long and two inches thick. (That is the size I estimate from today's perceptive recollection. It may have really been smaller than that, as my perception was relative to my own size.)

Although I had had a sandwich before, I had never seen one in such an interesting shape. Because of the unique shape, they were fun to eat.

It may have been a clever moment of ingenuity, and perhaps Sharon did not realize how intrigued I was with the shape of these sandwiches. (One tends to underestimate the mind of a four-year-old.) When I told you of these wonderful sandwiches, I must have been unsuccessful at communicating the distinctive shape and particular method of preparation. Sharon merely told you the ingredients, and when you made the sandwich at home, it had the traditional shape and therefore had no intrigue.

You therefore puzzled at how your imitation had failed to meet the specifications of the original. In discussing the matter over with Sharon you then learned that the novelty was in how it was cut. I don't recall you ever trying to recreate the original properly – after all, Sharon had an electric knife, which greatly facilitated the long, thin slicing of the bread, a critical point in the formation of this sandwich.

As I sit on a little break, I can visualize Sharon slicing that bread loaf vertically, and spreading jam on a long thin slice, using the whole blade of the knife.

I thought you would enjoy reading my testimonial account of the original.

My thoughts at the time were that he enjoyed being with Mark and his mother. That he loved her sandwiches, was great. Let this be her “special lunch” ! Why should I “steal her thunder”?

In the past few hours, I posted “Simple Pleasures”. This is a wonderful addition to supplement it.

How Significant...the Little Things in Life!

Merle Baird-Kerr
March 27, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Ribbon

In January 2009, I sent a “surprise package” to a personal friend, an American WWII Veteran. He was so impressed to receive it that he commented about his delight in opening this red-satin-ribbon-tied package. Herein, I penned the following:

Since the 19th century, the Government of Japan has issued 6 different types of
Medals of Honour (hosha)
to individuals for achievements in various fields.

The Medals of Honour were established on December 7, 1881 and were first awarded the following. Several expansions and amendments have been made since then. The Medal design for all 6 types are the same, bearing the words on a gilt central disc surrounded by a silver ring of cherry blossoms on the obverse; only the colour of the ribbons differ. The Medals of Honour are awarded twice each year on April 29 (the birthday of Showa) and November 3 (the birthday of Meiji Emperor). About 800 individuals receive these medals on each occasion.

Red Ribbon: to individuals who have risked their lives to save the lives of others.

Green Ribbon: children, grand children, wives and servants for remarkable acts of piety; and to individuals who through their diligence and perseverance while engaged in their professional activities, became public role models. Since 1955 it has been replaced to the same extent by the revived Medal...Yellow Ribbon.

Purple Ribbon: awarded to individuals who have contributed to academic and artistic developments, improvements and accomplishments. It is also awarded to Olympic Games medalists.

Blue Ribbon: to individuals who have made significant achievements in the areas of public welfare and public service.

Dark Blue Ribbon: to individuals who have made exceptionally generous financial contribution for the well being of the public.

Schools have a Red Ribbon Week.
Red Ribbons often used for door decorations.
At country and state fairs in US; in equestrian and other recreational sports events, the Red Ribbon is awarded to the competition individual
finishing Second Place in the contest.
It is used as First place in Canada.

Mystery Reigns...
Anticipation Escalates...
The touch of fingers upon its glossy width!

Nothing will ever surpass the beauty of a narrow red satin ribbon enclosing its contents, especially chosen...sending a unique message,
interpreted by the receiver.

How dignified the wrapping, highlighted with its scarlet banding
...touched only by the intended.
So fragile, yet so strong.
Its red...exemplifying the colour of Love and Passion.

The satin red ribbon may mystify...
an aura, it projects.
What magic can it weave?

So, My Dear Friend, this is Canada
and when I'm on your turf,
the Blue I shall gladly bestow!

Merle Baird-Kerr
January 26, 2009


It happened on Sunday, January 18, as I sat on the edge of my bed at 8 AM...suddenly a line was dictated to me. With a quick hot coffee as a stimulant, my passionate mind created fast flowing words...poetic verses with romance! Herein, is the first line and ensuing penned thoughts.

Serene as the lapping blue water upon sandy shores.
A quiet in the lilac dell as scent gently wafts.
View snow-capped mountains enshrouded in cloud.
Rose petals display hidden beauty.
Such is my Respect for You.

Verdant greens in Nature's lush forests;
Stately redwoods piercing heavens above;
Mighty black wings of the condor, soaring o'er the trees;
A winding country road meandering autumn's colour.
Such is my Esteem for You.

Hand molded pottery glazed in the amber of earth;
Shimmering colours of the hummingbird
nearing a flower... with whir of wings;
Orange-golden sun as it slips the horizon
when dusk time's eve arrives;
The silvery moon casts its spell
and the midnight sky...sparkles a million stars.
Through shower and sun...the rainbow...a palette of colour.
A “new day” dawns with fresh warming rays.
Such is my Affection for You.

The woodlands await the onset of spring...
The forest floor decked...Ontario's white trilliums;
Violets of mauve peeking through snow
and blades of new grass beginning to sprout
Birds all a-twitter with early morning songs.
Such is my Love for You.

You are my Great Incentive.
You are my Great Inspiration.

Merle Baird-Kerr
January 18, 2009

Monday, March 21, 2011

Puppy Love

When my  children were  young, we moved from a town home  in Aldershot to Brant  Hills, a new subdivision in North Burlington.  Through a government grant incentive, we bought a semi-detached house to be built by Armstrong Homes...on gently rolling lands, as yet an unsettled area  with no houses.  Its streets had not yet been carved.  Manchester Drive, a winding street, was my selected location...a narrow lot but of 181 feet depth.  I envisioned that from this 2-storey home, a view of Lake Ontario might be possible!

In the late 70's my children were 14 and 7, attending new schools in September of the year we moved.  Andrew, in High School, became a paper-carrier for the Hamilton Spectator.  Daily he walked several blocks  to obtain his bundle to deliver to the scattered homes in this new survey.  Marcia, still in Public School, quickly made friends...and occasionally assisted her brother with his paper route.

Catharine, a petite attractive secretary in my Real Estate Office, became an interesting friend; she and Reg, who had not long been married, lived in cosy small home on Crosby Street.  He, through diligence, learned and developed skills necessary to improve their home and property.  They had a pair of Siberian Huskies...Silver and Logan. She cordially invited us one Saturday afternoon to visit their new litter of three puppies.  Marcia and I, so delighted with this invitation, were ecstatic about these adorable pups.  “Mommy, can we have a puppy?”, she asked.  Explaining to Reg and Catharine the impossibility fence, no dog house...he offered to build the wood fence for us if I purchased the materials.  This generous offer I could not reject.  Marcia selected a cute black and white rambunctious puppy with black mask, surrounding ice-blue eyes, and extending down to her nose...a very raccoon-looking face!  Clients of my Real Estate, designed scalloped-edged shrubbery gardens along the deep lot with lilac bushes and Russian olive trees across the rear property line (which I was told would be higher than the fence  within two years).

We  travelled to the Library to research a name appropriate for out “puppy”. The name, “Kiska” was chosen.  The breed is known first for its temperament and suitability in a family environment.  They are gentle in character...are strong and compact  in size with a variety of eye colours from shades of coppery brown , icy blue or bi-coloured (1 brown, 1 blue).  Their weather-resistant double coat is a soft downy undercoat protected by a longer stiffer guard coat...which may include black, red, gray, sable and white.  The Siberian Husky weight varies from 35 to 60  pounds; their lifespan from  11-13 years. 

Originally from the Tundra region  of Siberia in Russia, they were imported  into Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush.  The Siberian Huskies gained worldwide recognition when they rushed needed medications to ill people during the diphtheria epidemic in Nome  Their popularity spread from there into Canada and the northern parts of United States...initially as sled dogs.  They love and need company...should not be left alone for long periods of time...becoming easily bored...then destructive.

Although they don't bark much, Siberians are vocal and can howl.  Digging is also natural with this dog...his ancestors dug holes in the snow as nests...this instinct still remains strong.  Given their downy undercoat sheds in the  early to late spring...a weekly brushing is recommended.  They are a very active breed with high stamina...and therefore, require a considerable amount of exercise.  Today, sled racing is very popular as an exhilarating winter   recreation or sled racing with the personal challenge to compete, to endure, to care for the dogs while en route, to overcome ever-changing terrain and weather conditions. 

Our choice of breed was of significant importance:  Huskies live outdoors and thrive in the cold weather which is healthy for their coats.  They curl into a ball with nose upon their front paws and tail wrapped around their bodies..They bark seldom...yet on cold winter nights, will “howl at the moon”.  Their shedding in spring is outdoors...the undercoat often coming out in tufts and clumps...easily removed by  hand and brush.  They love the human touch.

Our yard, ready for Kiska, required a doghouse.  Reg had a special design which we commissioned him to build.  First, wood-constructed  with a shingled roof overhang on the sides. The entry to the house was sufficiently sized to accommodate an open-end barrel attached to the house-front with the barrel's length lying on the ground.  (We used concrete slabs for the base of the entire dog house).  This outer end of the barrel was also open which provided a dry and clean interior, protected from weather elements of rain,snow and wind.  How marvellous!  This was like a Dog Palace!  Marcia and her friend, Heather  enjoyed the task of painting Kiska's  house.  We now welcomed our puppy to her new

From our patio door which opened to a sizeable deck, we could view her activity.  Each morning we called her to join us for breakfast...she would scamper gleefully from her safe abode to be with us...and again for the dinner hour.  When Andrew and Marcia returned from  their afternoon classes, they spent time playing  with her.  Kiska grew, not only in size, but also in strength.  She was extremely rough with Marcia...jumping and pushing, almost knocking her down. Kiska certainly needed discipline!

Andrew suggested he'd be thrilled  with the challenge  of taking her to Obedience Classes.  Thus began a great  relationship  between Dog and Master!  During these training weeks, only Andrew was the  Master, working with her daily using a leash and command words.  Praise was given only when  she obeyed and performed well.  (Whilst intelligent, they have minds of their own. They are happy to obey, but always on their own terms). To teach this breed, consistency and patience play an integral part.  He was pleased with her learning progress...always walking on his left...never with her head beyond his left knee...would Sit when he stopped...would Stay when told to do so... and Remain until a new command was given her. Eventually, he would exercise her without the leash...she would still follow his commands.

Near our home was a wooded area, so he attempted this exercise routine there to test  her.  Kiska  performed extremely well  UNTIL she saw a rabbit...and was GONE!  Her Master could not regain her attention and control...she was “deaf to his command”! She disappeared for a couple hours before returning home.  For the next few days, back to the leash again!  She was quickly learning house and people manners...not jumping and constantly trying to gain our  approval and acceptance  of her learned behaviour.

Among the class of about 20 dogs of medium size were Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds Doberman Pincers, a Dalmatian, even Silver (Kiska's mother) and another Husky.  When the final test  day arrived, Andrew was most apprehensive and anxious about  Kiska's behaviour, yet he felt confident about her training and what “they had accomplished”.  Anything might disrupt her attention!  The usual routines were tested with all dogs and Masters in the spacious room.  When told to Sit, an instructor...bouncing a colourful ball tried to incite one or more to move.  A couple  dogs couldn't resist the temptation to “play”.  Kiska remained  in Sit position!

On a final test, all dogs were told  to Lie and Stay in a  row along the wall.  The Masters were instructed to leave their dogs and walk to the far side and wait for further direction.  The Stay was for several minutes...maybe five.  A few dogs  became restless...even Silver arose from her paws and  wandered around...and a few dogs followed her.  Kiska, with nose on her paws, whimpered a few times, attempting to “inch forward”.  Andrew told me that with hands behind his back, he didn't look at her and secretly  prayed she would Stay!  The complete test  was marked out of 200...a German Shepherd scored highest son was ecstatic that  Kiska placed Second with a 197 score and thoroughly thrilled  with the success that they together achieved!

These  practices, learned by her, were daily  carried out...occasionally Marcia or I would walk her for exercise and maintain the lessons taught her.  When Andrew left for the University of Windsor, the routines  fell to the two of us... we agreed  upon the times of handling and exercise  for all  three of us!  Naturally, Kiska welcomed Andrew's return for his November birthday...Christmas week, Easter weekend...then the end of May when classes ceased.  Her Master  was  home for the summer!

Kiska was a delightful pet, quickly becoming a loved family member...even though mischievous at times.  Marcia was an equestrian Bertin Stables in north Oakville...4 to 5 days a week....riding and taking lessons.  Kiska enjoyed riding in the car with us to and from the farm...with her window open a few inches, she loved the fresh air and the wind upon her face.  One time when Andrew was home  on a Friday evening, we drove Marcia from the Stables to Barr's Tack Shop in Milton to   purchase a “bit” for a new bridle.  That completed, we went to McDonald's for Big Macs and French fries...parking along the windows so we could watch Kiska while we munched on this “fast food”.  About 20 minutes later, upon returning to the car, we realized  Kiska had been busy!  She chewed most of the black velvet, covering her riding helmet!  So, expenditure on a new one!

It was midwinter one day.  We went to Glen Eden to ski for a few hours.  Andrew had created a make-shift harness for Kiska.  With great elation and thrill, he encouraged her to pull him on his skis.  Huskies are acclimatized to cold weather, so she thrived  on this new winter activity.

In early June, Andrew called Kiska for her “breakfast meeting with us”; at first, she did not respond...stepping onto the deck, he again summoned his surprise, a big burly looking and heavy-coated dog, larger than she, dashed out from below the deck; he jumped the gate-entry into the yard and disappeared.  We knew she was “in heat” so now we suspect she may have been impregnated.  When we observed her roundness of tummy a few weeks later, the Veterinarian gave us confirmation that these puppies would be born in 58 to 65 days (early to mid November).  Her appetite for food increased, yet was still full of energy and requiring her daily exercise.  In  early November, I noted that her behaviour was abnormal...she had been occasionally upstairs, but never to remain.  This particular day she had claimed my bed to rest on...I asked her about it, but she was determined to stay there.  I coaxed her downstairs and put her outside.

It was a chilly morning the next day when we  opened the deck door to announce breakfast.  No joyful Kiska came hustling toward us.  After a second invitation received no response, I requested  Andrew to investigate.  He heard a few small yips.  We had prepared  an enclosure in our basement where Kiska could be with her puppies temporarily “out of the wind” and cold temperatures.  Returning with a towel, he crept into the barrel entry and there he discovered two puppies.  Kiska trusted him to wrap one puppy in the towel...she followed him out of her “house” and pranced beside him to the deck, into the kitchen then down the stairs.  Leaving this puppy, he and she retrieved the second puppy which they  brought into the basement.  Marcia, now up, delivered Kiska water and dry food. It was amazing that the three of us intently watched as she gave birth to the third puppy and the attention given to it by its  mother.  What an experience!

Twice a day, we took her  outside for exercise, always returning her to her beautiful babies.  One was black and white like her, another the colour and markings of a German Shepherd; the third a brindle colour and bi-eyed (one brown, one blue).  What are we going to do with three puppies?  Marcia was in love with this third puppy...whose birth  she had seen.

Advertisement in a local paper read, “Puppies for Christmas”.  Three families came forward to view and selected one of choice.  When old enough, the Vet gave  them the necessary shots and they were now ready to be claimed by their respective  families.  We spaced the times of “puppy pick-up” so Kiska could adjust to the taking of her little ones.

Happy she was to return to her snow-covered yard and “dog palace”. Twice she escaped!  I drove a few blocks until I found her...she was obviously looking for her puppies...then drove her home...she had dug
a hole under the fence (with the ground somewhat frozen) and crawled into the neighbour's yard that was unfenced.  The following week, she again escaped...and noticed by Craig, a nearby friend of  Andrew's and familiar with Kiska and her pups.  He leashed her, bringing her back to the yard.  Craig then helped me to repair the “dug area” he had previously done.

For several years, my forte in Real Estate was in selling newly constructed homes (or to be built) in new subdivisions.  While Andrew was at  University, I purchased a home to be built on the last  remaining Melissa Crescent lot...a home of silver-gray brick with charcoal shingles; shutters, window trim, front and garage doors were a royal admired colour combination.

Horse  shows, locally,were frequently held on a Sunday for riding students.  The trailer would leave early for the Show Stable of the day.  We'd be up by 6 AM for a quick breakfast, then drive to Bertin's to prepare her horse grooming, braiding of tail and mane, then loading of horses into the 1 or 2 trailers. Leaving Marcia here,   I'd join parents for coffee at a local diner.  Depending on the distance, I'd locate the horse farm where the riding event was held to watch a couple of her classes.  My Open House hours were usually scheduled from 1 to 4 PM.  Nearby friends,  Paul and Marjorie, had a son Jean-Paul who competed at these same horse shows.  Alternate Sundays we would exchange the driving chores.   On   one particular Sunday, his parents were away for the day, so as occasionally happened, the children would go the other's home until said parent(s) arrived.  When these riders arrived back at the stables,  they were ravenously hungry. In the morning I had placed a roast of beef in the oven on a pre-set timer...with remainder of dinner readily to be made.  When I left my Open House, it was to the Stables to meet Marcia and Jean-Paul,bringing them to my house for dinner.  When we entered my Melissa    home, a wonderful aroma of roast beef wafted through the main floor.  In less than 45 minutes, I would have dinner ready to serve for the three of us. I gave the children (aged 10 and 11) juice  and a few cookies while they went to the yard to play with Kiska.  I prepared potatoes and carrots to cook stove top and removed the roast from the oven to make gravy.  Ready to slice the roast, I called them along with Kiska into the Family Room for the remaining few minutes.

The doorbell rang...Anita, my neighbour friend, came to advise me of her research in contacting all new home owners on the street re the Assessment notices we had received about our taxes. We were dissatisfied  with the fact that our assessments were higher  than larger properties downtown close to the lake.  Together, we , with a petition signed were representing our area at the next council meeting to address this issue!

When I returned to the kitchen, the roast beef was on the floor...Kiska, enjoying a tasty meal!!!  I could have cried!  Jean-Paul and Marcia were in tears viewing the almost total loss of our roast beef dinner.  I managed to salvage sufficient beef  for them.  Kiska, smelling the meat, must have followed her nose and with front paws on the counter edge, pulled the roast to the floor.

My Mattwood Homes builder had relocated to Walker's Heights, a new subdivision .  Knowledgeable that his homes were a good investment, I selected a lot across from a small park backing on woodland.  Clients came to our Cleaver Avenue Sales Office needing a home sooner than we could build one for  them here.  I told them of my home on Melissa Crescent which suited their needs beautifully.  Rick and Nancy purchased it.  When Hickory Dickory Decks completed the fencing on my property and built a covered deck, the transactions were closed and finalized within two months.  Kiska seemed happy with “her new digs”...and readers, please accept  the humour in this!

One afternoon,  I received a telephone call from Nancy, “Do you know where Kiska is?”Having just returned from my office, “I expect she's in the yard.”  Nancy advised me that Kiska was sitting  on their front lawn when they returned from work...”waiting”.  Fearing she might run off, Nancy called her into the house until they contacted me.  Consider that this Husky had many streets to cross plus four lanes of busy traffic on Guelph Line and a busy intersection at Upper Middle Road!  Amazing that she arrived alive at her previous Melissa address. Nancy related that Kiska was on their bed in the Master Bedroom and refused to move!  I checked our yard...YES! She had dug a large enough space below     the gate to escape.  With leash in hand,  I drove my black Intrepid to their home.  Standing in the entry I called, “Kiska, Come”....then down the stairs she came with her tail in full swing and sat before me while I attached the leash to her collar.  “Thank you, Rick and Nancy”. Within a week, she succeeded  again in escaping to return to Melissa Crescent.  Brave Dog, I say,to have manoeuvred  through   Burlington's busiest commercial intersection totally unscathed!  There are Stop and Go Lights!

On cold winter nights, it was common for Kiska to sit at the back of the yard with head and nose pointed to the sky and   Howl... with long drawn tones and Howl again and again...perhaps hoping and trusting her vocal message would be carried on the wind to a dorm window in Windsor!  One   could almost envision  this  to be a wilderness call in the northland on a cold, cold night.  Fearing her howling  would disturb  the neighbours, I'd call her into the house  to spend the night.

When Andrew  returned home following graduation, he was fortunate and grateful for the job he could begin immediately as a Computer Analyst in a business firm owned by Tracy and a partner who had studied at Sheridan College.  Andrew and she  had met in Schelley's  Computer Club in High School.

That summer, he bought a Siberian Husky pup to train and enjoy as his own...
well aware that she would be company for Kiska.
He named her Katrina...a silver-gray- coated Husky with brown eyes.
And thus began a True Canine Companionship!


Traditionally, Dogs have been Man's Best Friend
Only a dog owner could relate to the feeling of being greeted by euphoria after a hard day at work.  Every day, regardless of what you've accomplished or where you've been, your  dog is elated to see  you and that joy can be contagious.  Reciprocating your dog's love and happiness can buffer you from stress by helping you to relax.  In fact, new research has shown that dog owners are happier and are likely to live longer than people  who don't own pets.

In addition, dogs have aided humans in tasks as hunting, livestock herding and guarding. Dogs   have helped to locate missing persons, assisted in rescue operations; they have partnered with policemen in criminal cases.  Dogs provide comfort and peace to the elderly in nursing homes and long term  care centres.

My original  knowledge of Siberian Husky dogs was my intrigue with
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
held annually in Alaska where mushers and teams of typically 16 dogs cover the 1,161 miles (1,868 k) in 9 to 15 days from Willow (near Anchorage) to Nome.  The race  begins on the first Saturday of March.  The Trail is one of the most extreme  and beautiful known to man...across mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests, desolate tundra, windswept coastline and often beset with blizzard conditions and frigid temperatures.  The might, the determination and the loyalty to their mushers is truly amazing...for these reasons, I salute
The Siberian  Husky Dog!

This poem  about the 1986 Iditirod Race
which I discovered on the Internet,  I share with you.

You conquered the  the toughest country
Ever created on earth.
Where  you led, man followed your footsteps
And the North was given birth.

Mountains you scaled  to  the sky-top;
Slippery glaciers crossed.
Muskegs and barren land travelled.
By thousands, your lives were lost.

Trails of the Arctic are dotted
With the bones of your brave race.
No pillars are erected to you.
No stones mark  your last resting place.

Brown-eyed, happy and gritty
You slaved and  your only pay
Was dry-fish, blubber  or muktuk,
Thrown on the snow by your sleigh.

Without you, the Great North  Country
Would yet be unknown to man.
There are insurmountable barriers
That only a dog  can span.

Who went to the Pole with Perry?
Who carried the serum to Nome?
Who rescued  our shipwrecked sailors;
From the ice-pack, brought them home?

Who travelled the creeks to Dawson?
Hauled the mail and packed the ore?
Left crimson tracks along the Bering?
Heard Aleutian lions roar?

Who struggled, helping his master
On traplines barrenand dreary?
Fought polar bears from the caches;
Stood guard over  those held  dear?

Mankind has suffered persecution
To strengthen the human race.
But never forgot the sled dogs
Who gave...and the trace.

Descendant of wolf ancestors,
Tempered by hardship and pain;
Fighting a raw, tough country.
These... bred the Husky Dog strain.

Most wondrous was God's forethought!
How wondrous was his plan
Developing the Husky Dog...
The ally and friend of man.

You on the creeks and tundra;
You in the squalid igloo
Give thanks  to God for the Husky
Who gave the Great North to You!

Merle Baird-Kerr           September 20, 2010

Amulets Talismans Charms Fetishes

This morning, I opened one of my jewellery boxes to locate a necklace to wear. There, before my eyes was an almost forgotten turquoise scarab, which, out of intrigue for its beauty many years ago, I bought. How Unique! This beetle was sacred to the ancient Egyptian monarchy. The pendant is scarab-shaped, being flat on the reverse side and about the size of a woman's lower thumb section. The body markings are gilt-gold-wired On the back (possible jade) are hieroglyphics, an ancient form of writing using pictures to represent different objects, actions, sounds or ideas. No one has the knowledge to understand or translate this message. Soon I must wear it!

This jewellery item inspired me to write the following:

AMULET: (Any object intended to bring Good Luck or protection to its owner)
For many centuries, mankind wore amulets to guard against evil.
An ancient Egyptian amulet representing the rising sun, held or worn,
gave the wearer the “vigour” of the sun god, Rah.

TALISMAN: (A magical object that many believe
can help people achieve their true desires)

CHARMS: Not surprisingly, charms have come to play a significant role
in many cultures...especially in America, in the union of man and woman
to guard against disease and to ensure a happy life. Women often wear
charms as small pieces of jewellery which signify important things or events
and may foster Good Luck. Beads come in beautiful shapes and colours
including Murano glass.

FETISHES: Some people aren't sure if they even have a fetish while others
think that their fetishes are abnormal. If you have a fetish, you are obsessively fixated on either an object or body part. Originally, it meant “charm” When the Portuguese first explored West Africa and encountered native religions, they called whatever talisman (totems, carvings, beads) they revered...a fetish.


Now, I question myself! I own a few items that give me great Pleasure and induce Happiness, perhaps even bring Good Luck! In researching these “things of mystery” it is evident that a few of these are among “my special things” they may be with you. Have a Look!

ACORNS attract the opposite gender...increase income, promote divine powers and prosperity.

ANGELS are long thought of as the symbol of “invisible forms” between heaven and earth. Angels
are the most perfect of protection and bringers of Good Luck. (Sana, a friend of several years ,was obsessed with Angels...ornaments, stationery, clothing, pictures, jewellery, bookends, etc.)

CROSS: Early Christians believed it to be a supreme amulet against all forces of evil. The sign of the cross was thought to cure illness and drive off demons. Today...Life and Divine Protection.

DREAM CATCHERS: According to the Sioux, the legends speak to us of Dream Catchers. It is believed that each carefully woven web will “catch your dreams” on the night air. Placed over the bed or centred in a window, the bad spirit dreams will become entangled in the new day. The good spirit dreams will always find their way through the centre opening and will gently float down the sacred feather(s) to bless the dreamer with peaceful dreams.

Living near the Six Nations Indian Reservation, I have often driven to a Boutique shop of interest. Their crafts are amazing! On one occasion I bought two different dream-catchers...loved the feathers and the aura they cast upon me. Their beaded jewellery impressed me greatly...buying a couple pieces.

FOX TAIL also a Good Luck amulet is often attached to personal possessions. People believed that it endowed the owner with the “cunning of the animal”.

FOUR LEAF CLOVER ...a Good Luck Amulet. The four leaves going clockwise from the left of the
stem represent fame, wealth, love and health.

FRIENDSHIP BALLS: These glass hollow balls are known by other names...fairy balls, witch balls, kugal (German) balls and spiritual balls . Originally made at the end of a shift from leftover glass, they are given to friends and family as a token of Friendship and Good Luck. They can be hung inside a window to stream coloured light into the room or hung outside in trees to add more colour to the garden. Each glass ball is hand-made and blown by mouth making each piece unique and different.

My Friendship Balls became a collection of 10 which I absolutely love...circular, spherical or tear-drop in shape...softly and gently patterned in shades of pastel...a couple are hand-painted on clear crystal They hang in the front of windows against sheer drapes. As the sunlight filters colours through them and gazing at them, my spirits are lifted!

HEART amulet is worn by many people around the world. It's a symbol of love and devotion. Ancient Egyptians thought the heart was the abode of the soul. In early Europe, a heart amulet was expected to prevent heart disease.

HOLLY: It is one of the most endearing of Christmas symbols. Holly was the “Gift of Good Luck” among the Romans, celebrating their midwinter festivals. (The Northern Tribe draped holly over clearings as shelter for friendly woodland spirits who would bring Good Luck to the houses.) Sprigs of holly in the home will also bring Good Luck.

HORSESHOES: If you nail a horseshoe above the doorway leading into a home, keep it pointing upwards so as to keep the luck from running out. Marcia once gave me a small brass horseshoe with a cord loop at its top. For years, I have hung it on my monthly calendar...daily message is Good Luck!

With my daughter's interest in riding for several years (and I love horses)...I collected many brass horseshoe ornaments which I hung across the fireplace wall of our Family Room...they gave me positive feelings. An uncle in Chile had several mounted in his rustic “study” him inspiration.

JADE is the ultimate symbol of calm and serenity, also known as the “Stone of Wisdom and Prosperity”. Jade pendants have long been used as a powerful magnet for love, especially when the stone is carved into the shape of a butterfly. Jade can attract money into your life; can also bring a boost to your brain...contributing to clear thinking, acute decisions and sharp memory skills.

MALACHITE has many different uses as a stone. Traditionally, people wore malachite to ward off and see oncoming peril. It is also thought to bring power, protection, love and tranquillity.

Several years ago, a friend visiting from Florida brought with her several pieces of hand crafted jewellery. One ring that I purchased from her was a large gold mounted Malachite...the composition and texture of the stone intrigued me together with its setting and character. Such a pleasure to wear!

MIRRORS: The mirror is the quickest way to send back negativity or to absorb it. In ritual, cleanse, consecrate and empower the mirror for protection. Hang the mirror in a central place of the home. Often they add much desired decor to our homes.

MISTLETOE: For centuries, the mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious and sacred plants of European folklore. From these early beliefs has come the modern creation of hanging a ball of mistletoe from the ceiling and exchanging kisses under it as a sign of friendship and good will.

NUMBERS: It is thought that every number has a special significance and according to ancient astrologers and numerologists, every person has a lucky number. In general, odd numbers are thought to be better than even numbers. One sure way of finding your lucky number is by adding the day, the month and the year you were born together, then add these digits together until left with a single digit.

For unknown reason(s), I have always favoured odd numbers; when I played ladies softball, I chose 9 for the sweater number I wore; my personalized licence plate displays the numerals 01 and 07.

OPAL: In the Far East, opal stones are believed to make the wearer a beautiful person. The stones are also thought to convey the “gift of prophecy and foresight” but only for those pure in heart.

Years ago, I was given a gold ring with garnets surrounding a misty beautiful to wear!

OUIJA BOARD is a board with the alphabet on it, used with a “planchette” to spell out answers to questions....with fingertips only holding this pointer...and are supposedly formed by spiritual forces. Ouija is derived from the French and German words... oui and ja. The Ouija Board is quite a versatile and interesting form of entertainment and enlightenment. It has been around for many years and used by millions of people worldwide.

Years ago, Sharon and I played with the Ouija Board many is mysterious to feel the planchette moving below your finger touches. At one time, she asked if her family would be moving from their Hamilton apartment...Yes, it answered...then spelled out the City; when asked the street, it was spelled out. Neither she nor I had heard of it. Guess what? She still lives on this street today!

PEARLS: This, I found no information about. However, when I first met my sister-in-law and her husband, returning from a job assignment in the East, they holidayed on an island off the coast of Spain. Here, Mike bought Alice a plain gold band ring, clawed with a single pearl. She had no love of pearls, believing them to have negative effects. She secretly gave it to me. I love it....and has been my pleasure to wear for many years.

PENNIES: “See a Penny, Pick it Up! And all day long you'll have Good Luck. Popular to this is, if the penny is Heads Up when found, it represents Good Luck.

QUARTZ: For thousands of years, the quartz crystals have been used as rituals to bring about much needed rainfall by the Native Americans and aboriginals. The stone is said to have a strong connection with water and is also connected with protection and health. Quartz also symbolizes the spirit and intellectual powers unique to the human race.

These qualities were unknown to me when I bought a few strands...each of different colours to co-ordinate with my clothing; rings of crystal also fascinated me.

RABBIT'S FOOT: Especially the left hind foot, it is carried as a Good Luck charm...mostly in America where over ten million rabbit's feet are bought each year and said to bring Good Luck to their owners and protect them against evil spirits. The rabbit's foot is usually worn as a neck chain, placed on a key ring or hung from the interior car mirror. It is available dyed in various colours.

RAVEN: The most characteristic form of the mythology of the Northwest is the cycle of legends in which the hero is the Raven...the Yeti of the Northern Tribes. It is not surprising that they believed their world was filled with spirits (like the Raven), dwelling in animals and trees. Northwest Indian art is full of the “eyes of the spirits” that fill their world...watching it at every moment.

Several years ago, driving home from California to Ontario and travelling through Navajo country in Arizona and Colorado, I met with many of their people along roadside venues displaying their crafts. One such double-stranded necklace I bought was designed with carnelian and hematite stones with separating silver beads. The lower strand at its centre featured a black raven on a small ivory pendant.

STARS: Any charm in the shape of a star is considered quite Lucky. It is an ancient belief that everyone has been assigned a special Star in the sky. It is the symbol of New Life and Resurrection. Wear this amulet for Good Luck, Good Health and Long Life.

TASSELS AND FRINGES were used during the Middle Ages and after, as protective devices because they diffused and distorted the evil or negative entities. (Mardadi Designs, I shared with Jill...we hand crafted accessories for both men and women. Our customers were delighted to purchase shawls which we made and “fringed” with a matching scarf. For a long time customer, I made numerous vests...usually fabric fringed and occasionally with tassells and other decorative finishings.)


Isn't it Amazing that the foregoing ....and more... have become part of our daily living and enjoyment?
It surprises me, that I am such a “practitioner” of several of these!

Merle Baird-Kerr
March 15, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Whimsical Look at Bird Life


The trees are alive
with the Sound of Music.
Each morning at five
they awaken the Dawn.
Happy Greetings they send
to their leafy-perched Friends.

Twitter, Twitter.....Twitter, Twitter!
Chant, Chant.....Chant, Chant Chant,
Chant, Chant!

They need no conductor
nor even a baton.

(from a faraway branch).
Warble, Warble.....Warble, Warble!

The rhythm of their songs
and the beautiful blended harmony
...truly a symphony
to the ear of the human.

I'm Singing.....I'm Singing.....I'm Singing!
Caw, Caw.....Caw, Caw.....Caw, Caw, Caw!
(atop his telephone pole).

From my Bedroom window,
I'm daily serenaded.
Surpasses a compact disc
or a Hotel Wake-up Call.

Twit, Twit.....Twit,Twit.....Twit, Twit!
Chooka, Chooka, Chooka!

Time for breakfast, Little Sparrow it worm, suet, seeds or insect,
a stray Francais-fry or tasty orange
and, remember, my feathered Friends,
the neighbour's welcome bird bath.

The air is suddenly silenced
until late afternoon.
The choristers assemble in the nearby trees
to chat about their quests.

Whirly, Whirl.....Twirly, Twirl!
Chi, Chi, Chi....Chi, Chi, Chi,Chi, Chi.!

Feathered nests of grass and string;
a prettily painted birdhouse
nestled beside a pine
on manicured lawn so green;
the dating and the mating;
eggs of turquoise, specked or white;
the search for food and delicacies found!

Is this their Tea Time?
I wonder, as they socially meet,
playfully flitting from tree to tree
with occasional musical bars.

Evening's dusk approaches
for Les Oiseaux,
as the deep orange orb
the golden-rayed horizon.

Sweet, Sweet......Sweet, Sweet.....Sweet, Sweet!

Merle Baird-Kerr
June 29, 2010