Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lif'e's Journey to Unknown Destinations

Every moment of your life should be measured
by just how far it takes you from the ordinary.
(from a Travel magazine)

Life is like a journey on a train...with its stations...with changes of routes...and with accidents!
At birth we boarded the train and met our parents and we believe they will always travel by our side.
However at some station, our parents will step down from the train, leaving us on this journey alone.

As time goes by, other people will board the train ~ and they will be significant: our siblings, friends, children and even 'life'. Many will step down leaving a permanent vacuum; others will go so unnoticed that we don't realize that they vacated.

This train ride will be full of joy, sorrow, fantasy, expectations, hellos, goodbyes and farewells. Success consists of having a good relationship with all passengers...requiring that we give the best of ourselves. They mystery to everyone is: We do not know at which station we ourselves will step down. So we must live in the best and offer the best of who we are. It is important to do this because when the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty...we should leave memories for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.

I wish you a joyful journey every year on your 'train of life'. Gather success! Give lots of Love!

(Compliments to Sherrie for the above message)

Today I interviewed my Grandmother for part of a research paper I'm working on for my Psychology class. When I asked her to define success, in her own words she said, “Success is when you look back at your life...and the memories make you smile.”

Undeniable Facts of Life
(Dilu, I graciously thank you for this advice)

Don't educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be when they grow up they will know the value of things, not the price.

Best awarded words in London...“Eat your food as your medicines; otherwise, you will have to eat medicines for your food.”

The One who loves you will never leave you because even if there are 100 reasons to give up, he will find one reason to hold on.

There is a lot of difference between human being...and being human. A Few understand it.

You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, You have to manage!

Nice line from Ratan Tata's Lecture: If you want to Walk Fast, Walk Alone! But if you want to Walk Far, Walk Together!

Six Best Doctors in the World: Sunlight...Rest...Exercise...Diet...Self Confidence...Friends. Maintain them in all stages of Life and enjoy a long healthy life.

If you see the Moon...You see the Beauty of God.
If you see the Sun...You see the Power of God.
If you see the Mirror...You see the best Creation of God.
So, Believe in Yourself!

We are all tourists: God is our travel agent
who already fixed our Routes, Reservations and Destinations!
So, Trust Him.

* * * * * * *

Enjoy the Trip called LIFE...whether you chug over roads that are rough and bumpy
or coast the rails through long winding tunnels to glorious snowy mountain peaks…
shouting o’er the lush deep valleys, “WOW! What a Life!”

Hunter S. Thompson stated,
Life should not be a journey to the grave
with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke
thoroughly used up…totally worn out... loudly proclaiming,
WOW! What a Ride!”

Composed by Merle Baird-Kerr…August 28, 2014
Comments Welcome…e-mail to:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Northwest Territories

Canada's Three Territories are Yukon, Nunavut
and centering them is Northwest Territories.

The Northwest Territories entered the Canadian Federation on July 15, 1970
but the current borders were formed on April 1, 1999
when the Northwest Territories was subdivided to create Nunavut to the east.

Geography: Combining the regions of Dehcho, North Slave, Sahtu, South Slave and Inuvik, their remote landscape encompasses forest, mountains, Arctic tundra & islands in the Canadian Archipelago. Dehcho's Nahanni National Park Reserve centers around the canyons of the South Nahanni River and 90 m-high Virginia Falls. The regional capital, Yellowknife, is on the north shore of Great Slave Lake.

The Northwest Territories is bordered on the south by three provinces:
British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Of Interest: My son, knowing that I had, a few years ago, visited the 'Four Corners' of United States being Colorado and Utah to the north, Arizona and New Mexico to the south, my son advised me that Canada also had 4 corners which he had map-discovered. Check it out: Northwest Territories and Nunavut to the north, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the south! These 'four corners' of taiga forests is hundreds of kilometres from any road or railway...but can be accessed from nearby Kasba Lake Airport/Water Aerodrome as well as from Points North Landing near Wollast on lake.
The 'Four Corners', marked by a metre-high obelisk
is inscribed to say it was erected in 1962.
On the top of the obelisk, there is a disc warning of 5 years imprisonment
for removing or distroying this monument.

Date Entered Confederation: In 1870 when Rupert's Land and the Northwest Territories became the property of Canada, they were renamed the North West Territories, becoming part of Confederation.
Today, with an estimated population of 43,537 in 2013 it is the most populous Territory in Northern Canada...with Yellowknife becoming the terratorial capital in 1967.

Geographical features include Great Bear Lake, the largest lake entirely in Canada...and Great Slave Lake, the deepest body of water in North America at 614 m (2,014 ft), as well as the Mackenzie River and the canyons on Nahanni National Park Reserve...a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its highest point is Mount Nirvana near Yukon at an elevation of 2,773 m (9,098 ft).

Climate: The southern part of the territory (most of the mainland) has a subarctic climate; the islands and northern coast have a polar climate. Summers in the north are short and cool; winters are long and harsh. Thunderstorms are not rare in the south, yet very rare in the north. The Territory has a fairly dry climate due to the mountains in the west. About half the territory is above the tree line.

Demography: The NWT is one of two jurisdictions in Canada (Nunavut) being the other), where the Aboriginal peoples are in the majority, consisting 50.3% of the population. According to the 2006 Canadian census, the 10 major ethinic groups were: North American Indian (36.5%), English (17.2%), Canadian (14.7%), Scottish (14.3%), Irish (11.8%), Inuit (11.1%), French (10.5%), German (8.5%), Metis (6.9%), Ukranian (3.5%).

Religion: The largest denominations by number of adherents according to the 2001 census were Roman Catholic (46.7%)...the Anglican Church of Canada with 5,510 (14.9%)...and the United Church of Canada with 2,230 (6.o%)...while a total of 6,465 (17.4%) people stated no religion.

Language: French was made the official language in 1877 by territorial government; later in 1892, assembley members voted for an English-only territory. Today, the Northwest Terrtories' Official Languages Act recognizes the following eleven official languages...which are more than in any other political division in the Americas: Chipewyan, Cree, English, French, Gwich'in, Iuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavay, South Slavey, Tlicho.
NWT residents have the right to use any of the above languages
in a territorial court and in debates; however laws are legally binding
only in French and English versions.

Economy: The NWT's geological resources include gold, diamonds, natual gas and petroleum. BP is the only oil company currently producinng oil in the Territory. NWT diamonds are promoted as an alternative to purchasing blood diamonds. Two of the biggest mineral resource companies in the world, BH) Billiton and Rio Tinto mine many of their diamonds from the NWT.
Yellowknife(the closest city in North America to the North Pole
is called “The Diamond Capital of North America.”

Symbols of Northwest Territories
Flower: Mountain Avens...a creamy-white which blooms in profusion in early spring.
Tree: Tamarack Larch...a prime source of wood for poles and posts.
Bird: Gyrfalcon...found in all regions, it is sleek, strong and fast being the largest of the falcons.
Territorial Symbol...polar bear
Motto: “Explore Canada's Arctic” (as viewed on a licence plate).

N.W.T. Promotes Last Chance to Drive Ice Road
From Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk
(a recent article by The Canadian Press in mid autumn)
In southern Canada, driving on ice is something to avoid. In parts of the North, it's the only wintertime option...and for some adventurers, part of the attraction. But that option will soon cease to exist on one well-known route: the 187 kilometres between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories.

This winter, offers the last chance to drive the seasonal ice road to 'Tuk' (as the Arctic Ocean hamlet is called). Beginning in winter 2017-18, the frozen of several northern ice roads...will be replaced by an all-season overland highway...a project that has been planned for decades.

What's it like to drive Arctic ice? A description on on Inuvik's tourism website puts it this way:
A trip in the winter, meandering through the Mackenzie Delta
and the treeless Arctic tundra as your four wheels leave pavement
in favour of dreamlike!”
According to a 15-year-average, the ice road to 'Tuk' opens in mid-December and closes around the end of April. Speed limits on the roads are enforeced for your safety. Dangerous holes can open in the road if speeding traffic creates waves under the ice. N.W.T. States that cars can be rented for the adventure.
There are daily flights to Inuvik from Edmonton, Yellowknife and Whitehorse...and weekly flights from Vancouver, Calgary and other airlines flying year-round to Inuvik.

Compiled by Merle Baird-Kerr...September 24, 2016
Comments welcome...mbairdkerr@cogeco or

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas's True Meaning

Rather than upstage the many other artricles about Christmas,
I share with you a few excerpts from a local journalist's writing
in December 2014...experiences published by Paul Benedetti:

The Good, the Bad and the Delicious of the Holiday Season

Everything, it seems, comes in twelves at Christmas time.
The 'Twelve Days of Christmas' ...the 12 people you are forced to invite for dinner...the 12 pounds you put on between now and New Year's Eve...and the same 12 CDs you play over and over, until someone screams, “Make it Stop! Make it Stop!” and falls on the floor thrashing around. (OK, that last one is me and it usually happens right after the 147th hearing of Burl Ives, 'Holly Jolly Christmas')

Let's face it: the Christmas season is a mix of good...and well, not-so-good-things. So, along with your list of To-Dos, your gift list and your Christmas Dinner grocery's my list: (Good and Bad) Things About Christmas.

Driving to the Mall and circling around the lot for about 20 minutes trying to find an open spot...and then finding one and getting into an altercation with the guy who drives up at the last second...and steals the spot...and then driving around some more...and then banging on the dashboard hysterically and driving home!

Eggnog: Super fattening. And delicious!

The Dreaded Christmas Office Party: Being forced to chat with Manny, the office weasel who always eats with his mouth open? Listening to Eleanor complain, only now, she's wearing an elf hat? Having drinks with your manager who just announced that 'downsizing' starts in January? I'd rather have the flu!

Receiving the rare...Real Christmas Cards in the Mail: Old-fashioned cards with a winter scene on the front and a hand-written message inside. They're like missives from the past...vestiges of a time before mail and texting...when the slow-flow of handwriting made people pause and think about what they wanted to say. I especially like the card I get from my pal, Wayne who, each year, turns a photograph he's taken into a hand-made card and then gets his wife,who has better penmanship, to scribe a lovely note. It sits on our mantel...a lonely reminder of Christmas before the Internet!

The Italian Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes: My wife says it makes the house smell for seven days...but who cares?

The Dreaded “Christmas Family Update Letter:” OK, your daughter got into were promoted to vice-president...your golf holiday in January was perfect...and your dog just got inducted into Mensa. It just wouln't be Christmas without hearing about your money...your gifted kids...and your perfect life. I'd love to write back, but I've got to go to the Food Bank...get my car out of repo (again)...and, oh yeah, my motorhome is on fire!

Waking Up Christmas Morning and having panettone with coffee and Baileys. Super fattening. And really delicous!

Buying a $20 Environmentally Friendly Christmas Tree at Ikea...and getting a $20 coupon back! Made getting in and out of the parking lot worth it!

Finding a $100 Gift Card in the last year's wrapping paper box that expired two months ago!

Mashed Rutabaga: Mashed parsnips...Mashed turnip. Not even babies will eat it!

Leaving a Bottle of Wine for the mailman because he makes it to your door everyday, rain or sleet or snow...and he's always smiling!

Driving to Niagara Falls with my brothers to attend the arranged Christmas Party for my developmentally delayed cousin, Julia Mary. It was held in an old firehall...and the staff of their group made a full Christmas dinner...including turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings. Julia, who is now in her late 40's, was there with her three roommates as well as a handful of other residents and their families. We had non-alcoholic punch...ate our dinner...sang Christmas carols (badly, yet nobody cared)...and waited for Santa to arrive. The residents, no matter what their ages, retain a child-like excitement about Christmas...and they erupted in squeals and cheers when Santa arrived. They got their presents...we danced around the room in a congo line and the “kids” loved every minute of it.

The next day my brother wrote me an email that said,
“It was a wonderful evening...the true meaning of Christmas!”
He's Right!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The story of “White Christmas” is undoubtedly the most famous and popular Christmas song. Music and lyrics for it were written by Irving Berlin in 1942, originally featured in the movie starring Bing Crosby. The lyrics of White Christmas struck a chord with the soldiers fighting in WWII and their families waiting for them back home.
I'm dreaming of a White Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know...
Where the tree tops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas.
With every Christmas card I write:
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be bright!”

To all my readers, I sincerely wish Merry Christmas
and for 2017, a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Merle Baird-Kerr...December 20, 2016
Comments appreciated: merlebairdkerr@cogeco or

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Santa's Plight

During the 6 days prior to Christmas in 2011, 'Non Sequitur' published a cartoon series of Santa Claus. As he and an elf step out the front door of the snow-laden roofed workshop, Santa appears to be stranded on a sizeable ice-cake; his elf points across the frigid waters, dappled with a few small drifting 'floes' to an iceburg of large proportion...
seven reindeer are stranded on its steep slopes.

'Twas 6 days before Christmas
When Santa heard a KER-PLUNK!
He rushed to the door
And found the ice-cap had shrunk.

Can this get any worse?”
he asked an elf who's named Sid,
Who just pointed to sea
And they saw that it did!

Now, what many folks know
Well, a few anyway,
Is that Santa's reindeer can't fly
Unless tied to his sleigh.

But the rest of the world
Unaware of this plight
Blissfully sleeps,
As Christmas drifts...out of sight.

Now, 5 days before Christmas
Santa's deadline was looming,
And made doubly worse
With employment un-booming.

He had no time to waste...
Or get into a funk:
People need Santa more now
Since the economy stunk!

He must leave there on time
So that people won't panic,
As children would would cry
Making parents quite frantic.

But, what could he do?
He was filling with dread.
His sleigh without reindeer
Is like a balloon made of lead.

The trapped reindeer are now
Drifting farther away.
If they're not rescued soon,
There'll be no Christmas Day.

'Twas 4 nights before Christmas
And Santa's spirits are not high.
Unless hitched to his sleigh,
His reindeer can't fly!

With his reindeer still trapped,
A thought made his teeth chatter.
Without presents,” he wondered,
Will Christmas matter?”

We have to go, get them,”
Said an elf who's named Bob.
We can't give up now,
Or we'll be out of a job!”

That's when they grasped,
With the reindeer afloat,
That the task won't be easy
Since they don't have a boat!

With 3 days before Christmas,
Hopes were beginning to fade.
To rescue the reindeer
A boat had to be made.

But, none of them knew
How to build one from scratch.
So, thinking 'out of the box'
A bold plan they did hatch.

It was risky, at best,
But success not remote
By turning the sleigh
Into a boat!

Then, just as they thought,
A loss might turn to a win.
Up from the water
Came an ominious fin.

'Twas 2 days before Christmas,,,
And with time running out,
Santa's mission was stopped
When he saw a big snout!

The sleigh was all rigged
And ready to set sail,
But his path was now blocked
By a huge killer whale!
The risk was too great,
Just not worth the chance.
Did this mean, no Christmas?
No songs and no dance?

This thought was fleeting,
It only lasted a while.
Then Santa's sad frown
Turned into a smile!

How could this be?
What did he know?
Without his prized reindeer
Where could he go?

'Twas the night before Christmas
And there won't be flight.
Santa can't make his rounds
At least, not by tonight!

But Santa still smiled,
It's not a time to be sad...
Because the best gift of all
Is one we already had.

It's a smile and a hug
That brings us pure joy;
And means a lot more
Than any gizmo or toy.

So, turn to a loved one,
Whether nearby or far
And tell them...a loved one
Is just what they are.

Merry Christmas to All!

Merle Baird-Kerr...written December 17, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December's Diversity

Forecast for the Month

Winter is weathermen forecast;
Put on your snowtires...check anti-freeze and oil!
Dress warmly before leaving your premises!
Icy roads may impede the travellers in morn!
So, take it easy...and safely drive!

I muse each year that we have four seasons.
Which is my favourite? It'd be Spring or Autumn!
December is the onset of Winter and Christmas...
And don't we all long for 'snow on the evergreens'?
Some people 'shop 'til they drop'...
Yet, that is not my mantra!
Throughout the year, I buy gifts here and there;
And purchasing kits to hone my crafts.

With the sudden disappearance of summer's heat
And the quick chilly birth of temperature change...
The trees' autumn dressing soon was lost.
We missed the red maples and golden oak leaves.
I've even resorted to shoes and socks!
Winter is knocking...with cold crisp winds!

A bush of hibiscus, I bought in August
'Cause Holland Park's price was most attractive!
Unknown was the colour of its flowers to bloom.
Its foliage and buds barely fit in mycar.
With struggling effort, to my balcony, Rob delivered.
In anticipation, I waited for buds to bloom.

Adapting to the afternoon light until setting sun,
My hisbicus thrived on a daily jug of water.
Until cool weather...this enormous bush
Rewarded me with flowers so beauteous.
Cool temperatures began to curl its leaves
Requesting that I move it into my home.

The Garden Centre explained 'dormant stage'
Which my precious plant needed so sorely.
The leaves turned yellow and gradually fell
While it continued to bloom and bloom.
Following advice...I snipped all the buds
As required for winter sleep.
'Twas told, my hibiscus needed the 'rest'
To prepare for Spring's new growth
And production of blooms again!

Like the naming of a child, I've called her 'Coral'
Aptly suited for six and seven inch blooms.
By now she's shed fifty percent of her leaves;
I can only hope and pray, the door and living room windows
Will emit sufficient light for her 'dormant stage.'
Too, her deep pot advises she needs less water.
Every second day, I rotate her pot
so her branches will receive equal light.

It's now mid-December...and today, a big surprise!
Near the top of her six-foot height...
A gorgeous six-inch coral bloom!
Is this her 'gift to me' before winter's descent?
Or perhaps it's her 'adieu' until spring arrives.?
Is this Coral's Star as olden 'wise men' viewed
Individually honouring Christmas's season?

The squirrels, I see scudding around
Daily collecting their 'stash' of food...
Even attacking my artificial fleurs!
Most deciduous trees have lost their leaves.
Only evergreens remain sturdy and strong
A-waiting Nature's paint brush of snow-blankets and frost.

Your First Christmas Card
(submitted by one of my readers)

Twas the month before Christmas'
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.

Why the PC Police had taken away
The reason for Christmas ~ no one could say.
The Children were told by their schools not to sing
about Shepherds and WiseMen and Angels and things.
It might hurt people's feeings, the teachers would say.

December 25th is just a 'Holiday'
Yet, the shoppers were ready with cash, cheques and credit
Pushing folks down to the floor just to get it!
CD's from Madonna, an X BOX, and I-Pod.
Something was changing...something quite odd!

Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken & Fonda.
As Targets were hanging their trees upside down,
At Lowe's the word “Christmas” was no where to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penny's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.

Inclusive, sensitive, Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used to intimidate me.
Now Daschle, Now Darden, Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzen,
On Boxer, on Rather, on Kerry, on Clinton!

At the top of the Senate, there arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus, in all public matter.
And we spoke not a they took away our faith,
Forbidden to speak of salvation and grace.
The true Gift of Christmas was exchanged and discarded...
The reason for the season, stopped before it started!

So, as you celebrate 'Winter Break' under your 'Dream Tree'
sipping your Starbucks...listen to me!
Choose your words carefully..choose what you say:

Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS! NOT Happy Holiday!
Christ is the Reason for the Christ-mas Season!

Merle Baird-Kerr...written December 12, 2016
Comments welcome: or

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Country Christmas

This is Christmas Day, 2009. Due to weather conditions,
 I am not driving to West Lincoln to visit my daughter and her family.
 Instead I reflected on Christmases past and present. I have a personal friend, a WWII Veteran living in United States who was unable, also, to be with his family. As an urban New Yorker having lived in Queens many years and other metropolitan areas, his perception of a country Christmas was probably only idolized on Currier and Ives winter scenes. Thus, I emailed the following to him on Christmas afternoon.

I recalled that decades ago in Southern Ontario, winter arrived in November and continued to the end of March...always snow on the ground...always snow drifts along the rural roads due to “open fields”... always a “snow fort” to play in until spring...always temperatures below freezing level.

Robert and Edna met at a rural Church Bazaar one summer...she from Norwich, he from Vanessa...several miles apart. A couple years later, after only minimal rendez-vous, they were married...she leaving 4 younger siblings and he the same. Born on farms, they continued to raise crops, milk cows and produce cheese; tend to 3 or 4 “work horses” who pulled “stone boats”, ploughs and farm wagon. It was the “age of early automobiles”. Robert had purchased a Model T Ford. Edna missed her family over the long winters but was content with the summer family picnics and Christmas Day. Within a few years, they had 2 young children. She was busy with them, helping Robert with the morning and evening milkings...growing vegetables and fruit....planting and tending her flower gardens of annuals and perennials...and on a treadle Singer sewing machine, made clothes.

Wanting to please her, Robert realized that taking her “Home for Christmas” was a challenge...the long snowy winters and drifted gravel roads were impossible for his Model T Ford.
As a surprise, his Present for Her was a Christmas visit to her Homestead.

Robert saddled Whistler, a part-Percheron horse, and to the harness each side he attached leather straps of bronze-finished bells. He hitched Whistler to an open double seated sleigh. Edna gathered from her cellar, gifts of preserved fruits and vegetables....Robert a few of his wood-crafted items, very practical for any farm use. The little girls had nose-gays of dried flowers from their mother's summer gardens. They were dressed in snow suits, hand knitted scarves hats and mittens. Mother and father in their cold weather winter clothes wore flannel underwear beneath. Over their laps were bear-skin rugs and surrounding blankets.

Edna was So Excited about this trip “Home for Christmas”! All through the 10 to 12 miles of travel, they marvelled at the sparkling crested snow, the ice-glittered trees, the frozen ponds, the frosted breath of horse and family. They sang songs as Whistler trotted a steady pace. (This experience was like the illustrated scenes of Currier and Ives.) Then arriving near Kelvin, the farm road led down a long sloping hill of freshly-laden snow and roadside drifts as high as the sleigh. Robert was ecstatic with his achievement of presenting This Gift to his Precious Family.

In the valley lay her Homestead...a 2 1/2 story yellow brick home, the outer machine shed and wood-clad barns. Laddie barked to announce their arrival and the sleigh bells rang “Merry Christmas”.

Edna jumped from the sleigh and rushed to the back door into waiting arms...hugs, kisses and Merry Christmases to Anna, Dorothy, Luella and Willie. George and Lily were So Thrilled to see first-born daughter and adorable grand children whom they had not seen since the summer picnic!

Whistler gave a happy snort when the sleigh stopped, then unsaddled and taken to the barn to rest...with the stabled horses! He was rewarded with a pail of water, a rub-down, hay and oats.

This story is personal...Robert and Edna were my parents;
the children were my older sister, Eileen and me.

Merle Baird-Kerr
December 25, 2009
The following Christmas or Winter song
 is so appropriate for the above family story.

Dashing through the snow
in a one- horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
laughing all the way.
Bells on bob tails ring
making spirits bright.
What fun it is to laugh and sing
a sleighing song tonight.

Oh, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Jingle all the way.
Oh, what fun it is to ride
in a one-horse open sleigh.
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,
Jingle all the way.
Oh, what fun it is to ride
in a one-horse open sleigh.

Merle Baird-Kerr . . . submitted December 23, 2011
Comments appreciated or

Monday, December 5, 2016

Christmas Eve 1881

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy...or those who squandered their means...and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned...the greatest joy in life comes from giving...not receiving!

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself...and to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible; instead, he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done the chores. I didn't worry about it long though; I was too busy wallowing in self-pity. Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said, “Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done the chores...and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on...and got my cap, coat and mittens. He gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house.
Something was up...but I didn't know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do, wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy! When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and said, “I think we'll put on the high sideboards. Here, help me.”

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armful of wood...the wood I'd spent all Summer hauling down from the mountain...and then all Fall, sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “What are you doing?” He questioned, “Have you been by the Widow Jensen's lately?” (She lived about two miles down the road from us. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what?) “Yeah,” I said, “Why?”

I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said...he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armful of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses could pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smokehouse and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait. He returned carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What's in the little sack?” I asked. “Shoes, they're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunny sacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy, too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's, pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbours than shouldn't have been our concern!

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” Pa replied, “Lucas Miles, Ma'am and my son, Matt. Could we come in a bit?”

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

We brought you a few things, Ma'am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitatingly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children...sturdy shoes, that would last. I watched her carefully as she bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling...and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out. “We brought a load of wood, too, Ma'am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I had a big lump in my throat...and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too. In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak.

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before, filled my soul. At Christmas, I had given many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that He would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it, I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me and for many others. The list seemed endless.

Tears were runing down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa...and I was glad that I still had mine. At the door, Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. We'll be by about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here hasn't been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisers had all married and moved away.

Out on the sled, I felt a warmth that came from deep within...and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a short distance, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your Ma and me have been tucking away a little money here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough. Then yesterday, a man who owed me a little money from years back, came by to make things square. Your Ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle....and I started into town this morning to do just that...but on the way, I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunny sacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.” I understood...and my eyes became wet with tears again.

I understood very well...and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now, the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life whenever I saw any of the Jensens' or split a block of wood, I remembered...and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night. He had given me the best Christmas of my life!

(Author unknown)
The foregoing sent to me by an American reader on December 26, 2015.

Merle Baird-Kerr...written December 4, 2016.
To comment: mbairdkerr or

Friday, December 2, 2016

Christmas Lore

The History of the Christmas Kettle

In 1891, Captain Joseph McFee wanted to help vulnerable people in San Francisco, especially during the Christmas season..but he had no funds to do so. He remembered during his earlier days as a sailor in Liverpool, England, seeing a large iron kettle where passengers of boats that docked, tossed coins in to help the poor. Captain McFee suspended a similar pot from a tripod in the Oakland Ferry Landing...and encouraged the public to “Keep the Pot Boiling.” He collected enough money to host a Christmas dinner for the poor.

Canada's first kettle was used in St. John's, Newfoundland in 1906. Today, the familiar kettles and kettle workers (or 'bell ringers') are seen in more than 2,000 locations nationwide. For more than 100 years, the annual Christmas Kettle Campaign has been a great way for people to help others in need in their local community through the work and efforts of The Salvation Army.

Holly and Mistletoe are Symbols of Christmas

Holly and Mistletoe are an integral part of holiday imagery and tradition. Holly is used to adorn a home in green and red finery alongside evergreen boughs and wreathes. In addition, it has become customary to hang a bouquet of mistletoe under which people are encouraged to share a holiday kiss. While these elements of celebrations are now incorporated into many of the secular and religious components of Christmas, they have very different origins.

Holly has been used since the days of the early pagans as a decoration for mid-winter festivities, when it was brought into homes to keep evil spirits away. Ancient Romans believed that the holly prickles drove away these evil spirits...and it held a place of honour at December festivities dedicated to the god Saturn. To avoid persecution during the Roman pagan Saturnalia festival, early Christians would participate in the tradition of hanging 'evil-repelling holly' on their homes to appear like the masses. Eventually, as the number of Christians grew, the tradition became less of a pagan one...and more associated with Christians and Christmas. Some people have inferred that holly and its prickly edges is symbolic of the crown of thorns Jesus wore at his crucifixion, with the red berries representing blood.

Mistletoe was once held sacred by the Norse, Celtic Druids and North American Indians. It is actually a parasitic plant that grows on a wide range of host trees. Heavy infestation can dwarf the growth and kill these trees. In cultures across the pre-Christian Europe, mistletoe was seen as a 'represenation of divine male essence' (and thus, romance, fertility and vitality). The plant was also thought to be a symbol of peace...and anyone standing below it, should receive tokens of affection.

When enemies met beneath mistletoe, they had to lay down their weapons...and observed a truce until the next day. This is how the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe likely began...and why a ball of misteltoe is now hung in homes during Christmas...a season of peace and affection.

Traditions Behind Gift Giving
The holiday season is a time to celebrate with friends and of the most festive times of the year. Many holidays focus on the exchange of presents, which may be exchanged with relatives, friends and even co-workers. Gift exchanges trace their origins to both religious and secular trditions, each of which has helped shape the holidays into what they are today.

Christmas: Gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day all over the world. For Christians, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe was a gift from the Creator. From a religious standpoint, gifting others around Christmastime can be traced back to the stories of “The Three Kings” (also referred to as the Three Wise Men) who visited Jesus after his birth. Frankincense, a fragrance involved in worship...Gold and Myrrh, an incence associated with funerals was presented. These gifts symbolized worship in Christ that He would be the King of Kings...and that suffering and death would come to Him.

St. Nicholas, a fourth century saint, is a beloved figure across the globe...who has a reputation for giving gifts in secret and helping the needy. The figure of “Santa Claus” is based on St. Nicholas...and the blending of the two has evolved as history...being a mix of folklore and personal traditions.

Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The word “hanukkah” actually means “dedication” in Hebrew. Traditionally, gelt (or money), was given as a Hanukkah gift. Many Hanikkah gift givers aim to give gifts that are thoughtful and sweet. Money is not exchanged as much today, with other gifts taking its place.

Kwanzaa is an American holiday that pays homage to traditions and cultural influences from Africa. The holiday was developed in 1966 by Maulana Ndabezitha Karenaga. The focus of Kwanzaa is on family and the harvest as well as certain principles...such as unity and faith. Gifts make up one of the seven symbols of Kwanzaa celebrations. These gifts, based in religious, secular and cultural traditions are symbolic of the labour and love of parents...and the committments made and kept by their children.

Twelve Things You Probably Didn't Know About Christmas
(with thanks to Tom for this submission)

Most historians believe that Jesus Christ was actually born in the spring (taxation time, remember).
North Americans ship millions of gifts at Christmastime to family and friends.
The mistletoe was believed to be an ancient symbol of fertility and verility.
Ham...not the festive favourite.
Germany's Prince Albert started the tree tradition in 1848. During the 'winter solstice (December 21), branches served as a reminder of spring which became the birth of our 'Christmas tree.' Germans were the first people to bring evergreens to their homes...a tradition which made its way to North America in the 1830's.

The famous red Santas suit was created by Coca-Cola in the 1930's. Throughout the years, Santa wore a variety of colours: red, blue, white and green.

On December 6 (St. Nicholas Feast Day), children leave out their shoes to find little gifts in them the next morning. This gift-giving tradition started in Holland.

The Rudolph we know, almost named Reginald, was created by copy-writer, Robert L. May in 1939 for Montgomery Ward's colouring books.

Jingle Bells was orignally a Thanksgiving song. It was first performed by an organist from Savannah, Georgia at his church at a Thanksgiving concert. The song was republished in1857 with today's title.

Christmas sends at least 15,000 people to ER ~ accidents from hanging lights to taking the roast out of the oven. Christmas also sparked hundreds of average of 17 deaths...and $13,000,000 in property damage annually.

Santa has his own zip code: HO HO HO.
Christmas doesn't remove Christ from Christmas! In fact, as far back as 1100, the word Christianity was originally spelled Xanity.

Compiled by Merle Baird-Kerr...December 1, 2016